Pricey Japan packages set to go on sale

Pricey Japan packages set to go on sale

Locals visit the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Fukuoka, Japan. Japan's strict border controls change on June 10, when package tours will bring foreign tourists back. (Bloomberg photo)
Locals visit the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Fukuoka, Japan. Japan's strict border controls change on June 10, when package tours will bring foreign tourists back. (Bloomberg photo)

Outbound tour operators are preparing to offer Japan packages next month, with prices expected to be 30-40% more expensive than those sold prior to the pandemic, mainly because of visa requirements, Covid-19 testing and soaring operational costs.

Charoen Wangananont, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said the Japan National Tourism Organisation had issued entry regulations for tour groups, which will be the first leisure travellers allowed into the country for over two years, starting from June 10.

"We still have to see how Thai customers respond to the rule as there are requirements which mandate them to pay more and engage with additional document processing, including a visa fee of 2,000 baht which had been exempted before the pandemic. Tourists also have to apply for a visa by themselves and take an RT-PCR test 72 hours before arrival, which altogether would cost around 5,000 baht," he said.

Each group must include no more than 10 people and must travel under escort from a tour guide throughout the whole journey, which will make the package pricier as tour companies have to offer a full-board tour that includes all meals.

With smaller groups, tour companies cannot benefit from economies of scale but have to raise the price on a per-head basis in order to maintain profit and match the increasing costs.

Mr Charoen said tour operators who wanted to sell Japan packages must also have a partnership with registered operators in the country. The Japanese government has implemented this rule to help mitigate the impact on the tourism industry before it opens up to individual tourists.

"The average price might be 30-40% more expensive," he said. "However, most tour companies are ready to take the risk as it has been two years since this favourite destination for Thais was closed."

There are currently seven airports in Japan that allow international flights: Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo, Kansai airport in Osaka, Chubu airport in Nagoya, Fukuoka airport in Fukuoka, New Chitose airport in Sapporo, and Naha airport in Okinawa.

Visitors from Thailand, which is categorised as in the "blue" group, are exempt from quarantine and the RT-PCR test upon arrival. Only countries in the blue category can take part in the tour scheme.

Mr Charoen said tourists must also be vaccinated with three mRNA or viral vector shots, while inactivated vaccines are excluded from the list.

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