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Snow or never: Japan’s top ski resort destination beckons

The ski haven has finally reopened its doors to travellers without the need for guided tours 

In 2018, the number of inbound skiers skyrocketed to 80,000 from 30,000 in 2013. Kanuman/Shutterstock

From 7 September 2022, the Japanese government has raised the maximum number of arrivals from 20,000 to 50,000, as well as scrapped the requirement of packaged tour guides and pre-travel testing for those with booster shots, reported the South China Morning Post. 

The only requirement left to enter is for tourists to apply for a sightseeing visa, to book their vacations with a licensed travel agent, and to strictly follow their itineraries. 

In June, the country opened its borders and allowed foreign tourists to enter as long as they hire an authorised local guide, be part of a tour group, respect the itinerary set, and book at the designated accommodation. 

With the easing of rules, a growing number of travellers have expressed their interest, with Hong Kongers among those who are already looking to schedule their trips for the end of the year, revealed Asia Head of Expedia Group Brands PR Lavinia Rajaram. 

As for the ski season, Nickie Mabey, founder and CEO of ski specialist firm Mabey Ski, told PlanetSKI that they, together with their guides and partners, are optimistic that it will push through. “We have been very busy with bookings over the past few months and are continuing to receive lots of enquiries. Our two hosted trips are in early 2023 so we are remaining positive,” she added. 

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Pre-pandemic, the snow sports sector has been crucial to the nation’s economic growth, revealed the Japan Tourism Agency to TTG Asia. Normally, in 2018, a winter sports tourist would spend USD1,564 compared to USD1,063 for a regular tourist. In that same year, the number of inbound skiers skyrocketed to 80,000 from 30,000 in 2013. 

Apart from attracting snowboarders and skiers, Hokkaido has also been appealing to foodies and enhancing its gastro-tourism offerings with renowned dishes of king crab, sea urchin, and jingisukan made of lamb and vegetables. 

Its capital Sapporo boasts a tasting room in Kamikawa Taisetsu Sake Brewery to entice the international palette, with several types of sake made from Hokkaido-grown rice. Another city in the southwest, Hakodate, has also formed a green tea tourism council, to offer this famous beverage and other meals made using the ingredient.  

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Daily flights to Japan are also expected to increase from October. In fact, Law Cheung-kwok, the senior adviser at Chinese University’s aviation policy and research centre, added that a new carrier, Greater Bay Airline, is planning to offer its services in Japan.

With the industry’s optimism about the potential for independent travellers in the coming months, PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko) winning developers SC Global Developments Pte Ltd, The Pavilions Niseko KK, Parry (Group) Property Investment & Development Company Ltd, Marumi KK, and ISA Architects Inc have been gearing up for the forthcoming influx of tourists. 

Heard of outstanding residential or commercial projects in Greater Niseko, Japan? Nominate them for the 2022 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko) on or before 23 September 2022. To know more, visit AsiaPropertyAwards.com/Award/GreaterNiseko/.     

Gynen Kyra Toriano, Digital Content Manager at PropertyGuru, wrote this article. For more information, email: [email protected]. 

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