Japan has seen an uptick in demand for outdoor-based travel experiences.
Japan is cautiously lifting lockdown and has cancelled its state of emergency following consultation with an advisory panel of infectious disease experts.
The declaration has now been lifted in the remaining prefectures of Hokkaido, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa. Restrictions were removed in Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto on May 21 and in 39 other prefectures on May 14. The move follows a marked fall in new coronavirus cases in Tokyo and other hard-hit regions.
In a news conference, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said he had made a judgement call that the country as a whole had met the strict standards set before restrictions could be eased.
“We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met this criteria.” He added that the Japanese model had “demonstrated its strength.”
Abe first imposed the emergency declaration in seven prefectures on April 7 and later expanded it to cover the entire country.
Under a ‘lockdown’ that was much softer than elsewhere in the world, Japanese businesses and schools were recommended to close and people were asked to remain at home. Citizens largely heeded the advice and new infections have fallen from a peak of around 700 a day to a few dozen.
Japan has reported around 17,000 cases and 853 deaths. This includes the 700+ cases and 13 deaths linked to the Diamond Princess cruise liner that was quarantined in Yokohama in February.
The government will begin the easing of restrictions by gradually allowing businesses, bars, restaurants, schools, gyms, libraries and museums to reopen. Subsequent stages will allow for the opening of theatres, cinemas and theme parks. Earlier this year, Japan was forced to cancel the summer Olympics, an event it was due to host this summer.
To track any new COVID-19 cases, the government will be introducing a smartphone app by mid-June that will send notifications to people who have had close contact with an infected person. Residents are being urged not to travel between prefectures until the middle of June.
International travel to Japan ceased in April and Japan is currently closed to nationals from more than 100 countries. No statement has been made about the reopening of the country and the government has indicated that borders will remain largely shut throughout June, with visas suspended and mandatory 14-day quarantine remaining in place for any arrivals.
According to the Japanese travel industry, there has been an uptick in travellers seeking outdoor amenity-based destinations, such as the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Kiroro, in the north west of Hokkaido, is projecting domestic travel to come first, shortly followed by regional (contingent on the country’s restrictions) and then international. In a recent survey, Japan was found to be the top searched destination for post-coronavirus travel.
Kiroro, which operates family-friendly accommodation including Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort, The Kiroro A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, and Yu Kiroro, has introduced a range of new health and safety measures, as well as new wellness offerings, food and beverage partnerships and outdoor activities. It is currently offering an ‘Explore Hokkaido’ package and is hoping to offer early bookers for the ski season various value-added benefits.
“Japan remains, and has always been, one of the top destinations for many Asian travellers and families,” said a spokesperson for the resort.