Regulations have been loosened slightly to allow students and some business travelers to enter. But, individual tourists remain barred despite calls from industry leaders hoping to restart tourism to take advantage of the yen, which has fallen to 20-year lows.

The Tourism Agency said on Tuesday that it would start allowing small group of tourists in from later this month as ‘test cases’ to gain information for a broader resumption of tourism at an unspecified future date.

Initially, tourists from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore, who have been triple-vaccinated, will be allowed to take part in the tours. The tours will be strictly planned in conjunction with travel agencies and tourists will be accompanied at all times by tour conductors, it added in a statement.

“This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind,” it said.

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida said during a speech in London earlier this month, he would bring Japan’s border controls in line with other wealthy democracies in June, but no further details have been given, including when the country will fully open its borders to tourists again.

In 2019, Japan hosted 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion yen.

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