Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

Japan to Reopen to Visa-Free Independent Tourists From October 11

5 days ago

It’s official — Japan has finally announced that it would allow visa-free entry to independent tourists, removing the daily cap on arrivals from October 11 onwards, after almost two-and-a-half years of stringent restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the announcement on Thursday in New York while attending the UN General Assembly.

Inbound arrivals would need to be vaccinated three times or would have to submit a pre-arrival negative result for a Covid-19 test, according to Kyodo News.

Before the pandemic, Japan allowed visa-free entry for short-term visitors from 68 countries, including the U.S.

To encourage domestic tourism, the Japanese government will also be bringing back the nationwide travel discount program that had been discontinued after the rise in Covid cases.

Dubbing the step an effort to support the tourism, entertainment and industries that have been the worst-affected during the pandemic, Kishida hoped news of the full reopening would encourage more people to be a part of the program.

While Japan had been easing restrictions in a phased manner even since it reopened to foreign tourists in June, the government still required tourists to apply for a short-term visa enter the country as part of approved package tours through a recognized travel agency.

Hotels

Hyatt Hotels to Debut Atona Brand in Japan That Distills and Updates Ryokan Concept

5 days ago

For centuries, Japan has offered ryokans, which are minimalist guest houses typically located near onsen, or natural hot springs used for bathing. Hyatt Hotels said Wednesday that it planned to launch a new brand, Atona, that will distill the elements of traditional ryokans while adding some modern comforts.

Hyatt has entered a fifty-fifty joint venture with Kiraku, a company that works to apply capital to help preserve the best of Japan’s cultural and natural assets.

Other companies have recently attempted to modernize and brand the ryokan concept, including Nobu’s hospitality division and Adrian Zecha, founder of Aman Resorts, whose brand is called Azumi.

Independently managed properties are expected to open in 2025. Kenya Hara will be the creative director of the new brand.

“We hope these ryokans will provide guests, both local and from abroad, a special place to experience the still unseen wonders of Japan, while also positively impacting local economies,” said Kou Sundberg, founder and CEO of Kiraku. For more on Sundberg, listen to this recent podcast.

Tourism

Japan Looks to Resume Visa Waiver For Some Countries From October

2 weeks ago

As Japan learns to live with the virus, the government has indicated plans to ease all travel restrictions in the “not-so-distant future,” which according to the local media could be as early as next month.

The relaxation in entry restrictions would entail putting an end to the entry ban on independent tourists, removing the daily arrival cap and restoring the pre-pandemic visa waiver for short-term visitors from 68 countries, including the U.S.

Announcing the government’s intention to relax restrictions, Seiji Kihara, the deputy chief cabinet secretary, had said this week that Japan should not fall behind other destinations in attracting foreign tourists.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also talked about strengthening Japan’s earning power by taking advantage of the yen’s weakness, which is currently at a 24-year low against the dollar.

A weak yen would make the country an attractive destination for foreign travelers.

Japan recently raised the daily arrival cap of inbound tourists to 50,000 from 20,000. However, even this increment is only around 45 percent of the pre-pandemic daily average arrival of 140,000 travelers.

Earlier this month, the Japanese government removed mandatory pre-arrival Covid tests for visitors, provided they are able to submit proof of being vaccinated thrice. It has also scrapped the requirement for guides on group tours.

While Japan has been easing restrictions in a phased manner even since it reopened to foreign tourists in June, travelers are still required to apply for a short-term visa and need to enter the country as part of approved package tours through a recognized travel agency.

Tourism

South Korea to Lift Pre-Arrival Testing for Inbound Travelers This Week

4 weeks ago

South Korea will be lifting its requirement for a pre-arrival Covid test to enter the country from Saturday, according to local media reports.

The scrapping of pre-arrival tests would be for all arrivals into South Korea, regardless of their vaccination status or the country of departure. However, incoming travelers would still need to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) within 24 hours of their arrival into the country.

Currently, all inbound travelers to South Korea are required to submit the results of a polymerase chain reaction test taken within two days of traveling to the country or a rapid test taken within 24 hours. After arriving into the country, travelers are required to undergo a polymerase chain reaction test within 24 hours.

On Monday, South Korea’s advisory committee on infectious diseases, under the office of the prime minister, had advised the government to lift the mandatory pre-travel polymerase chain reaction test for inbound travelers.

“All inbound travelers, whether nationals or foreigners, arriving aboard a plane or ship will not need to hand in a negative polymerase chain reaction test starting midnight of September 3,” second vice health minister, Lee Ki-il, was quoted saying in a virus response meeting.

Japan and South Korea are some of the few countries that still ask for a pre-arrival Covid test from incoming travelers. Last week, Japan announced it would waive pre-departure Covid-19 tests for vaccinated travelers from September 7.

On Wednesday, South Korea reported around 104,000 new Covid cases, which brings the country’s total tally up to more than 23 million.

Tourism

Japan Mulls Scrapping Pre-Arrival Test for Inbound Travelers

1 month ago

Japan is finally considering to end the pre-arrival Covid tests for vaccinated travelers coming from foreign countries, according to local media.

Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, also hinted at eased border controls in a virtual news conference on Monday. The decision to ease restricstions would depend on the daily Covid count being reported in the country.

Inbound arrivals to Japan are currently required to submit proof of a negative Covid test result conducted within 72 hours of departure. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

Japan, which has one of the strictest entry rules or inbound arrivals, has been easing restrictions in a phased manner. In June, the country doubled the daily cap for arrivals at border crossings to 20,000 in June and allowed foreign tourists on escorted package tours to enter from June 10.

However, only around 1,500 foreign tourists entered Japan in the month up to July 10 since the country re-opened on June 10, noted Japan’s Immigration Services Agency. An earlier Skift story had also observed that Japan welcomed more refugees from Ukraine than foreign tourists since reopening.

In 2019, before the pandemic struck, Japan hosted 32 million foreign visitors, who spent $38 billion.

The rise in the daily number of cases from July onwards has put the easing of restrictions on hold. However, with the scrapping of pre-arrival tests, the government may also consider raising the number of people allowed every day to enter the country, according to Nikkei Asia.

The Japanese tourism sector has been urging the government to scrap entry restrictions to help boost the sector.

Hotels

Asia-Pacific Hotel Investment Volumes Rose to $7 Billion in First Half of 2022

3 months ago

Investment in the hotel sector in Asia Pacific continued to recover as investment volumes totaled $6.8 billion in the first six months of 2022, according to real estate brokerage firm JLL’s report.

Capital deployment into the region’s hotels sector showed a return to pre-pandemic levels, registering a 12 percent increase compared to 2019.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to experience a fast pace of recovery in the second half of 2022, Skift Research noted recently in its Asia Pacific Accommodation Sector Market Estimates 2022.

In terms of investment volume Japan received the maximum capital —  $1.8 billion, followed by Korea’s $1.7 billion, and Greater China, including Hong Kong ($1.6 billion).

A strong domestic and international tourism demand and the recent devaluation of the Japanese Yen would drive investors to acquire hotel assets in Japan, JLL noted.

JLL also expected further price reductions of hotel assets and forecasts China’s hotel transaction volume to total approximately $2 billion in 2022.

Strong recovery was witnessed in countries like Singapore ($899.7 million), Maldives ($205.5 million), and Indonesia ($159.6 million).

The activity was more subdued in Australia ($145.5 million) and Thailand ($37.7 million), however, JLL noted that these countries would witness greater investment in the second half as numerous marque deals would be closing.

More hotels are entering the Thai market as sellers are under pressure to sell, noted JLL and forecast that transaction volumes would reach close to $300 million this year.

While the 75 transactions in the first half of 2022, were down 33 percent compared to the first half of 2019, the 19,822 rooms transacted during the first half of 2022 was 30 percent higher compared to the first half of 2021 and 9.4 percent compared to 2019.

“The increase in deal activity was influenced by a spike in portfolio transactions as institutional investors sitting on dry powder seek to deploy their capital more efficiently,” the report noted.

However, according to JLL, ongoing momentum will likely be challenged by growing macroeconomic and geopolitical headwinds in the second half of 2022.

“We remain steadfast in our conviction that total Asia Pacific hotel investment volume will cross the $10 billion mark despite the scarcity of assets coupled with macro and geopolitical headwinds that will continue to influence capital activity,” said Mike Batchelor, CEO, Asia Pacific, JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group. 

Airlines

JAL Is Testing Flight Subscriptions Again With the Help of a Japanese Startup

3 months ago

Between August and November 2021, Japan Airlines (JAL) began a three-month promotion, making non-refundable flight tickets available in a discounted wholesale deal to travelers booking trips. 

On June 22, the promotion returned, with some small changes. Up to 1,000 customers will be able to buy flight subscriptions, giving them access to tickets on up to 143 domestic routes.

The promotion is run by a Nagasaki-based startup, KabuK Style, which has a consumer-facing brand called HafH (Home Away From Home). Pricing is at ¥28,800, ¥39,800, or ¥82,000 monthly, or approximately $213, $295, or $606. This time one-way and multi-city reservations are possible, unlike last time, which only allowed round trips on 10 routes.

The project is the latest example of travel companies testing the subscription model. For more on KabuK Style’s earlier promotion with JAL, see Skift’s earlier article.

Tourism

Japan Reopens to Some Overseas Visitors Starting June 10

4 months ago

Japan said on Thursday it would reopen its borders to international visitors on group trips, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The move follows an earlier announcement this week that tourists that test negative and live in specified countries with strong vaccine programs and relatively low rates of spread of coronavirus would be exempted from arrival testing and quarantine as of June 1, Travel Voice Japan reported.

There’s a limit on the program.

The 20,000 cap on daily visitors is below the average of 87,000 a day in 2019. At best, “the economic impact would be only one-fourth of that in 2019,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, an economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute Inc.

WSJ

U.S., Australia, Thailand, and Singapore are among the selected countries to start.

From a buying power perspective, now is a great time for U.S.-dollar-carrying tourists to visit Japan, as the buying power of the dollar stretches far because of currency exchange shifts.

Read more at the WSJ

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