Japan will allow tour groups without a guide starting next week in the latest lift of its pandemic-era travel rules.
The country, which first reopened to escorted group tours in June, will now allow unescorted visitors on “package tours” starting Sept. 7, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday, according to The Japan Times. The country will also raise its daily arrival cap to 50,000, an increase from its initial cap of 20,000.
Kishida said he would consider easing border restrictions even further in the future.
“In countries worldwide, international exchange is growing,” Kishida said, according to the site. “To participate in these exchanges and to benefit from the weaker yen, we will raise the daily arrival cap to 50,000 from Sept. 7, as well as allow [tourists on] nonguided tours from all countries to enter the country.”
Under the new rules, tourists will no longer need an escort, but they will still need “sponsors,” or travel agencies in Japan, The Japan Times reported. Individual tourists are still not allowed.
Earlier this month, Japan took another step to ease entry rules, dropping its pre-departure test requirement for travelers who received at least three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. That rule also goes into effect on Sept. 7. Until then, travelers must submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure.
Japan’s tourism industry has been struggling. As of the end of July, just over 8,000 foreign tourists had visited the country since it re-opened, The Japan Times noted, citing the Immigration Services Agency.
Japan maintains some of the strictest border rules in the region with countries like Thailand and Singapore dropping testing and quarantine rules and allowing visitors to travel freely.
In anticipation of demand, Delta Air Lines is making it easier to get to Japan, resuming service from Los Angeles to Tokyo on Oct. 30 and adding a new flight from Hawaii on Dec. 1, as well as opening its only international Sky Club lounge in Haneda Airport last month.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.