This year, Neasa Ronayne hopes to travel to Japan for the first time.
She paid more than £3,500 ($4,390) for a 16-day tour because she is not able to wander freely in the country due to the Covid-19 limitations.
Ms Ronayne, who resides in the United Kingdom, is nevertheless eager to go.
“This will be my first visit to Japan, as well as to Asia. It’s something I’m looking forward to. To learn certain terms, I’ve been watching [Japanese reality TV show] Terrace House “she stated
She isn’t on her own. Several travel agents have informed the BBC that they are receiving an increase in requests about vacations to Japan, despite the country’s tough laws keeping some visitors away.
Since 2020, Japan has been mostly blocked to international travelers due to the implementation of some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 regulations. Even as it prepares to open its borders to travelers from almost 100 nations and regions on Friday, additional limitations are being imposed.
This includes the need that travelers join a group tour. In addition, they must get medical insurance and wear masks in all public locations, even outside.
Tourists must also avoid the “three Cs”: tight areas, crowded places, and close contact settings, according to the guidelines.
The Japan Tourism Agency stated earlier this week that tour organizers must follow guests “from admission to exit,” while also reminding them of Covid rules like as mask wearing.
“At each point of the trip, tour guides should remind tour participants of important infection protection measures, including wearing and removing masks,” the CDC stated in 16 pages of instructions released on Tuesday.
“Masks should be worn even outside in settings when individuals are chatting in close proximity,” it stated.
Despite this, travel agents report an increase in interest in visiting the nation.
Chan Brothers Travel, based in Singapore, claimed it has received bookings for 50 tour groups to Japan, each with up to 30 persons.
Since Japan’s reopening was revealed, Jeremiah Wong, its spokeswoman, told the BBC that queries had been “flowing in tremendously.”
“Travellers have no issues going on their long-awaited trips to make up for the time missed in the last two years or more,” Mr Wong added.
However, he is uncertain when the company’s first post-pandemic tour to Japan would be able to take place: “The earliest departure might be after mid-July owing to the demand for tourist visa application… for all tourists.”
Intrepid Travel’s managing director, Zara Bencheikh, stated that there is a “great pent up demand to visit Japan.”
Her company wants to resume its excursions, which include famous places such as Mount Fuji, in August. However, Ms Bencheikh stated that it was still awaiting permission from Japanese officials.
For the past two years, Japan has prohibited most international visitors as part of its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Overseas tourists were even barred from the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games last year.
Only recently has the nation eased travel restrictions for foreign residents and business travelers.
Japan said last month that the daily cap for foreign visitors will be increased to 20,000.
According to Kentaro Koyama, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Japan, this “moderate reopening plan” would not boost Japan’s economy, which is the world’s third biggest.
“The administration has taken a long time to respond. In comparison to other nations, Japan’s elderly population is more scared of infection “Mr. Koyama explained.
Prior to the epidemic, tourism was a huge business in Japan, with 31.9 million international tourists in 2019. There were less than 250,000 last year.
However, the once-popular Asian destination’s tourist economy still has a long way to go on the path to recovery.
Because of the limitations, Rad Sappany has canceled her intentions to visit Japan next month from Australia, according to the BBC.
“We don’t want to go on a package trip since that’s not how we want to travel,” she explained.
Despite receiving two to three inquiries every day, Wanping Aw, the owner of Japan-focused boutique travel firm TokudAw, claimed her company has yet to secure any reservations.
“We don’t have any confirmed bookings yet since no one is prepared to commit,” she explained.
“We don’t want to be guinea pigs,” Ms Aw said, “is a statement I regularly hear.”