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Asia Minute: International travel season finally arrives in Japan

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 11, you can travel to Japan without a special visa and without being part of a tour group. You need either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test — but other restrictions have been lifted.

Even so, this week’s kick-off for international visitors may be more of a “soft launch.”

The dollar has gained nearly a third against the yen in about a year.

But Americans are not expected to be the peak travel crowd heading for the land of the rising sun in the near future.

In South Korea, COVID cases are dropping, and international travel plans in general are increasing.

The Joong Ang Daily quotes figures from South Korea’s largest travel agency showing bookings for overseas travel packages more than doubled from the first week to the third week of September.

More than a third of those reservations were for Japan.

The president of Japan Airlines told the Nikkei newspaper that overall inbound flight bookings have tripled since the government announced it would ease travel rules.

Although he also said international travel demand won’t fully recover until sometime in 2025.

Before the pandemic set in, Chinese accounted for nearly a third of all international arrivals to Japan — and it's uncertain when those visitors will return.

Meanwhile, there's also a basic domestic challenge — filling hospitality jobs.

Reuters quotes figures from market research firm Teikoku Databank showing nearly three-quarters of hotels surveyed in August reported a worker shortage — up from less than a third who had a shortage a year ago when demand was an entirely different story.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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