According to Wanping Aw, a Singaporean who has lived in Japan for 12 years, visitors must apply for a tourist visa with a registered travel agency, which then registers their contact details and itineraries on an online government website.
“So even if we submit the tourist visa application for them, they might not get it,” Aw said, who runs an incoming travel agency, Tokudaw, with a Japanese business partner. If approved, visitors must go to the Japanese Embassy in their home country to personally collect the visa.
Arrivals are grouped into three categories of risk: Singapore is in the low risk blue boxi.e. travelers, regardless of vaccination status, only need a negative pre-departure test taken 72 hours before entering Japan. Visas and tests will drive up prices.
Travel agencies also face higher operational costs to comply with the requirements: Groups must not exceed 10 people and must have a Japanese guide throughout the journey.
Count on higher airfares as well. Currently, airfares to Japan for all seat categories are double those before the pandemic at all levels, including budget carriers, according to a travel agent in Singapore who requested anonymity.
Chan Brothers Travel Singapore said its exclusive small group tours currently cost 40% more than its mass tours. Outbound tour operators in Thailand expect prices for trips to Japan to be 30-40% higher than pre-pandemic rates.
A WEAKER YEN AND FEWER TOURISTS
Travelers don’t seem to let these added challenges deter them from visiting Japan.