Japan should ‘gradually resume’ letting in tourists, advisers say

Japan should aim to normalize its coronavirus travel controls for foreigners as soon as possible, some members of a government panel said Wednesday, calling for a gradual reopening of its borders for tourists to boost the economy.

The government should relax its daily limit on foreign visitors and ease additional immigration procedures needed to enter Japan once such restrictions are confirmed as less effective in curbing infection cases, private-sector members of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy said.

Amid criticism of the country’s strict border controls, Japan raised the daily cap on overseas entrants on April 10 from 7,000 to 10,000. Visitors are limited to businesspeople, technical interns and students. The ban on tourists remains.

The four private-sector members, including Masakazu Tokura, who heads Japan’s largest business lobby, Keidanren, said the government should “gradually resume” accepting inbound tourists to address the diminishing current account surplus caused partly by a plunge in the country’s travel balance.

The travel balance posted a ¥200 billion ($1.6 billion) surplus in 2021, dropping from the ¥2.7 trillion logged in pre-pandemic 2019.

They also proposed the government present the criteria needed for a further relaxation to help potential visitors plan for the easing of government border controls.

After the meeting, Daishiro Yamagiwa, the minister in charge of the government’s COVID-19 response, said in a press conference, “The government agrees with the private-sector members on the direction we should go toward eventually opening the border to tourists.”

“But the timeline of easing the regulations should be decided appropriately,” he said, adding that the course of the coronavirus pandemic remains unpredictable.

The council members include members of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and business leaders.

With the government having set a goal of doubling foreign direct investment in Japan to ¥80 trillion, Kishida instructed his ministers to start discussing specific investment promotion plans that lead to innovations and strengthening of supply chains.

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