Q1) What is the latest information on border reopening for tourists? will I need a tour with a tour company to enter? What is ERFS?
Japan's reopening continues to move ahead for international tourists. Along with the requirement of end-t0-end tours with licensed and registered tour companies in the new ERFS system (e.g. meet at Tokyo Narita/Haneda airports upon arrival and fly to Hokkaido with our guide, and vice-versa), a mobile health app will also have to be uploaded onto visitor phones and updated in the event of illness. Unfortunately, independent tourism will not be permitted until later reopening stages.
As of late July, there are direct flights from Incheon Airport, South Korea to New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido - meaning our fully guided international tours can start directly from New Chitose Aiport and avoid the inconvenience of a Tokyo arrival. We expect more direct international flights at New Chitose Airport to be operational in the coming months, especially for Asian destinations.
The ERFS system is a new system put into place to regulate international arrivals to Japan. On a guided tour with us, we will handle all your tour registration to the ERFS system and will send you the necessary documents to submit to your country's Japanese embassy for a tourist visa. Currently, visa-on-arrival is no longer offered in Japan. With the ERFS registration completed for your tour, obtaining a Japan tourist visa is straightforward.
We are fully registered with the ERFS system and already accepting international tour bookings! Contact us! Our award-winning custom-made tours also include visa assistance with the ERFS system, arrival-to-departure guiding, and much more.
For the summer of 2022 and perhaps longer, international tourists will be required to join a guided tour throughout their time in Japan, from arrival until departure out of Japan. Tour companies will be responsible for adhering to government instructions on operating tours, and will be the de-facto first line of defense in case medical treatment is required at local hospitals or clinics. Here at HNT, we have years of experience creating and guiding award-winning, private custom-made tours. We continued to operate many fantastic tours during the past year, and look forward to welcoming international guests once again!
For more information on the latest regarding the reopening, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website here
Q2) Are hotels, tourist destinations and activity operators open at this time?
The vast majority of hotels, tourist destinations and activity operators are open and excited to welcome guests. Each establishment is taking steps to maintain high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Other than masks and sanitizers, and far fewer tourists (!), our guests will hardly notice any difference from pre-coronavirus conditions as Japan and Hokkaido have remained open for domestic tourism throughout.
Q3) What steps will hnt take during my tour to ensure hygiene?
We are committed to high standards of cleanliness including:
Daily disinfection of our tour vehicles
Face masks & antibacterial wet wipes will be provided free of charge for those who wish to use them
Partnering with hotels & activity operators that maintain equally high standards of hygiene
Basic health protocols such as temperature checks for those who wish to use them
The assistance of our entire team in the event of medically-related issues
We will continue to ensure that our tours maintain high standards of hygiene for the benefit of our guests, guides and local partners, including regular disinfection of our tour vehicles, free masks for those who wish to wear them, the support of our entire team in the event of medically-related issues, as well as other basic health protocols.
Q4) What will happen if I feel sick during my tour?
With years of experience in private tourism in Hokkaido, we have encountered a fair share of medical situations which our guides and admin staff have provided the highest level of service and care to our guests while ensuring that the overall tour is minimally affected.
In the event that guests feel unwell prior to or during a tour with us, we will assist with taking temperature, arranging a doctor's visit (if requested), obtaining medication if necessary and any other issues that we may be of service. Please feel confident that we will do our best to assist you in every way we can.
A tale from our past: One of our guests cracked his tooth the night before our tour was set to start! Upon pick-up from the hotel, our guide expertly handled making the morning arrangements for the required dental surgery and was even able to start the tour by midday, with only the morning activities missed! Needless to say our guests were grateful for the wonderful care received - including translation during the medical procedure - and were thrilled that their tour was only somewhat affected. In another instance, one of our guests rolled and fractured her ankle while on tour, and our guide arranged and managed the entire hospital visit for immediate treatment, including translation and medications, and the tour resumed the very next day.
Please know that when you're on tour with us, you will treated like family, and your welfare & well being is truly our highest priority. While we provide emergency medical insurance with coverage for the most extreme accidents, other ailments or conditions - including Covid hospitalization - may not be covered by our insurance. As such, we strongly recommend for all of our guests to arrange independent travel insurance prior to traveling to Hokkaido & Japan.
Q5) What are HNT policies regarding coronavirus or other travel restrictions that may affect our tour?
With the unpredictability of travel due to coronavirus, we understand the need for greater flexibility while planning your trip to Hokkaido. As such, we are offering free tour postponements for any tours affected by international or domestic travel restrictions which restrict access to Hokkaido. If that means we need to cancel and/or re-book any activities and/or accommodations, or redesign your custom-made itinerary to better match updated travel dates, we will do so free-of-charge. You can be assured that your tour deposit with us is safe, and we will await your arrival to Hokkaido for whenever conditions allow.