Naha Airport to partially reopen international travel routes in June, lifting a two-year tourism restriction

Naha Airport to partially reopen international travel routes in June, lifting a two-year tourism restriction

May 27, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Yosuke Anri


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on May 26 that Naha Airport’s international travel routes, which have been suspended in full since March of 2020, would reopen sometime in mid-June. As part of the easing of border control measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is adding Naha and New Chitose Airports to the existing list of five airports such as Haneda that meet the requirements for quarantining and are allowed to have international flights arrive and depart from their runways.


The airport will be allowed to accept foreign visitors to Japan starting June 10. In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, for the time being entry will be restricted to visitors partaking on guided tours, for which it is easier to keep track of visitors’ itineraries.

Japan’s central government will double the number of daily allowed foreign visitor entry from 10,000 to 20,000 people, and will reclassify quarantine measures for visitors, including Japanese citizens returning to Japan, coming from “blue-level” countries, considered low-risk for infection, as being exempt from testing and self-isolation when entering the country.


As of May 26, the countries on the list of “blue” low-risk countries include 98 countries and regions including the US, China, and Korea. The list will continue to be reevaluated as needed. The foreign tourist visitors coming from “blue” countries will be counted against the 20,000 foreign-visitor limit. There will be no limit placed on the number of people who can join a guided tour, or for domestic travel.


If hosts follow the procedures of their given regions, the country will also allow for both short term (under 3 months) and long-term entry for foreigner for the purpose of business and employment.

Kishida said in a speech in Tokyo on May 26 that, “Our goal it to gradually increase the number of allowed visitors,” and that their policy will continue to expand while keeping a close eye on case levels.


Prior to lifting the ban, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) have been inviting representatives from tourism companies from four countries including the U.S. for demo tours since May 24. The goal was to establish transmission prevention practices and communication lines for when a visitor tests positive. They are also compiling similar guidelines for the business community as well.


It has been two years since the start of the foreign tourist ban. In 2018, there were over 30 million visitors to Japan, 3 million of which came to Okinawa (of which 1.8 million came by air). However, due to the coronavirus pandemic Naha Airport suspended all international flights starting in March of 2020, and there were zero foreign tourists that came to Okinawa over the two-year period of 2020 and 2021, delivering a massive blow to the Okinawa economy.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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