Japan is already seeing an increase in inbound travelers since relaxing its COVID-19 border controls last week, but a full recovery will remain elusive until China opens up, said the head of the country's biggest international airport.
Narita Airport chief executive Akihiko Tamura said a jump in overseas arrivals in Japan's biggest international travel hub was an indication of this broader trend.
International arrivals have ticked up about 10 percentage points to about 30% of pre-pandemic levels since Japan reinstated visa-free travel to tourists on Oct. 11, Tamura told Reuters, citing airport research.
"To return to 2019 levels, it's not enough just for Japan to open up," he said. "Of course, China has to change as well or it's impossible."
Chinese visitors made up a sizable portion of Narita's volume until borders started clamping shut in 2020, Tamura said, adding that Beijing's continuation of a zero-COVID policy and Japan's delayed reopening will push back a full recovery in East Asia travel to as late as 2025.
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