Hokkaido preparation accelerates for foreign visitor entry, with thorough virus control

The New Chitose Airport International Departure Lobby bustling with foreign visitors before the pandemic (August 2019)

With the government reopening foreign tourist entry, the Japanese tourism industry is rushing to prepare for the influx. And Hokkaido is no exception. The flood of group lodging inquiries from foreign travel agencies to hotels and the like is increasing rapidly. Domestic Japanese travel agencies, which are responsible for accepting tourists into the country, are being overwhelmed with the work of checking on the thorough implementation of virus control initiatives and response measures for cases when Covid-19 infection is discovered among incoming tourists.

At Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo, approximately 40% of the guests before the Covid-19 pandemic were foreign visitors, mainly from other Asian countries. Guest inflow dried up during the pandemic, but from late May when the government announced a reopening of entry for foreign visitors, inquiries from foreign travel agencies started surging. A total of 1,000 rooms have reportedly been provisionally booked for foreign visitors from July through December. The hotel also began updating its English language website, which had been static until recently, and is focusing on providing information to foreign guests.

Shiki no Tabi, a travel agency catering to foreign guests, received some 30 inquiries from South Korean travel agencies after the government announced entry reopening. It is currently making arrangements to receive group tours. In addition to handling visa application procedures for tourists, the agency is also overwhelmed by responsibilities including checking on hospitals that can provide PCR testing and on response measures for cases when Covid-19 infection is discovered among incoming guests.

Expectations are swelling among businesses like department stores as well. On June 11, Daimaru Sapporo remodeled and reopened high class brand shops that are popular abroad. The department store is also considering reopening their Tax Duty Exemption Counter, which has been closed since 2020.

Location

Daimaru Sapporo and Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo

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