Tourists Hopeful Japan Allow Visa-Free Visits to the Country

Tour operators and travelers await Japan’s confirmation on the new entry rules after local authorities suggested the strict visa requirement would be lifted next month.

Speaking about reports of Japan’s intentions to ease travel restrictions, Thailand Travel Agents Association (TTAA)’s president Charoen Wangananont said that Tokyo officials have yet to reveal whether the kingdom would be included in the visa-free scheme.

In the meantime, tour operators are waiting for an official announcement to prepare their business plans before the next high season that starts in October. Travelers are also eager, as Japan is a key destination for Thai tourists.

According to Mr. Charoen, while Japan’s decision to lift ticketing rules is hopeful, the outbound market to Japan will not increase drastically due to limited seating capacity.

The rainy season with typhoons approaching Japanese territory could also disrupt the market, he said.

The Japanese government allows individual travelers to visit the country without a tourist escort. However, the move would not affect package tour sales because many people still prefer the convenience of a tour, Mr. Charoen added.

The TTAA’s president stated that the number of Thais visiting Japan this year is not expected to exceed 100,000.

“In addition to unfavorable weather, airfare is another decisive factor as the average price emerged,” he went on.

Additionally, Mr. Charoen warned that while visa-related costs could be reduced, tour packages remain expensive, as inflation has also affected the tourism industry’s operating expenses.

The TTAA’s Vice President Chotechuang Soorangura said package sales to Japan had stalled in recent days as tourists hoped the country would announce a visa exemption to save travel costs.

“Travel demand is still pending as tourists prefer hassle-free travel. Moreover, they want to save the roughly 1,500 baht for a visa application,” he stated.

However, Mr. Chotechuang said that the number of families requiring tour operator services was relatively low even though Japan allowed foreign nationals to travel freely if tour operators helped with hotel reservations from the beginning of this month.

Additionally, the average airfare to Japan is currently 20% higher than before the pandemic. Complicated processes and higher costs have also made Thai travelers stay for less time, Mr. Chotechuang added.