Thai tourists get warm welcome in Gunma Prefecture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Employees of the Minakami Tourism Association, right, greet tourists from Thailand in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, on Saturday.

MAEBASHI — Tourists from Thailand recently got an enthusiastic welcome in the town of Minakami, as more foreign visitors are arriving in Gunma Prefecture since the government reopened the borders for the first time in two years.

Japan’s reopening has been welcome news for the tourist industry. However, certain parties are alarmed about the unclear prospects for the future, as the number of people newly infected with the novel coronavirus has been rapidly increasing.

Employees of the Minakami Tourism Association employees were among those who greeted 12 tourists from Thailand at the entrance of the Minakamikan ryokan inn in Minakami on Saturday evening, holding a banner and a panel that said “Welcome” in Thai.

As they got off a bus, the tourists raised their hands cheerfully or bowed their heads while pressing their hands together. They were to visit Tambara Lavender Park in Numata, Gunma Prefecture, on Sunday before heading to Tokyo.

Saranya Wattanahongsiri, 49, was visiting Japan for the fifth time. She said she was looking forward to bathing in an onsen hot spring, as she heard it’s good for one’s health.

After posting an image about her trip to Japan on social media, she received many messages saying, “I want to go to Japan, too,” she said.

The association plans to keep promoting the town to overseas visitors, but the outlook for tourism, including for domestic travelers, is uncertain as the government announced Thursday the postponement of its nationwide tourism promotion program due to a feared resurgence of the coronavirus. The program had been scheduled to start in the first half of July.

The ongoing discount campaign for travel within prefectures or designated regions — including Aikyou Gunma Project, a Gunma Prefecture tourism campaign — was extended through the end of August.

“We hope the postponement will not apply slow the recovery of tourism,” said Yukie Fujino, an association official.