JAPAN on Tuesday (5/24) was announced as the highest-ranking tourist destination in the 2021 travel and tourism development report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), even though the country of Sakura is closed to foreign tourists due to restrictions on the corona virus until now.

For the first time in 2022, foreign tourists (tourist visas) have been able to re-enter Japan after previously being opened in early November last year for about three weeks and then closing again due to the corona pandemic that is spreading widely in Japan.

Topping the list for the first time, Japan ranked highly for cultural resources and in several infrastructure categories, with the United States in second and Spain in third.

Japan ranks fourth overall in biennial reports for air transport infrastructure and cultural resources, sixth for land and port infrastructure, and 12th for natural resources. But it ranks low for its response to climate change, coming in at 107th place.

Apart from Japan, Western countries occupy the top six places, with the next highest ranked Asia Pacific countries being Australia in seventh place and Singapore in ninth place, out of a total of 117 countries and territories.

As the tourism industry slowly recovers from the effects of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “It will be important that the lessons learned from the recent and current crisis, that steps are taken to instill inclusivity, sustainability and long-term resilience into travel and tourism is continuing in the tourism sector as it faces evolving challenges and risks,” the report said.

“In this way, the sector can continue to be a driver of global connectivity, peace and economic and social progress.”

Prior to the pandemic, Japan was eager to boost tourism as a key pillar of economic growth and set a goal of attracting 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 when it was originally scheduled to host the Olympics and Paralympics, which were postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

Japan has closed its borders to foreign tourists since the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, tightening its border controls in November last year to effectively bar entry to non-resident foreign nationals in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Japan has relaxed COVID-19 border controls since March 2022, planning to double the limit on overseas arrivals to 20,000 people per day from June 1, 2022.

The report’s criteria have been revised since its last publication in 2019, when Japan ranked fourth. If the 2019 findings were evaluated under the new criteria, Japan would rank second, according to the WEF. [sources/photo special]