Travel agencies in holiday rush after Japan easing

Travel agencies are racing against the clock to launch more group tours to Japan over the Lunar New Year holiday, an industry veteran said, a day after Tokyo relaxed its curbs and allowed Hong Kong flights to land in all its airports from Sunday.

Travel Industry Council chairwoman Gianna Hsu Wong Mei-lun said some tours were canceled earlier due to flight curbs and that agencies would now contact sightseers and arrange new tours again depending on the latest flight schedules.

"For destinations requiring pre-departure Covid testing, agencies will try to arrange transfers or refunds for those who test positive," she said.

Her remarks came after the Transport and Logistics Bureau said flights from Hong Kong will be able to land at all Japanese airports, less than a week after authorities said flights would only be handled by seven airports: Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Chubu, New Chitose, Fukuoka and Naha.

On the mainland reopening, Hsu said she did not expect a large influx as there is a 50,000 entry quota in place.

Hong Kong Federation of Insurers chief Selina Lau Pui-ling said that many travel policies cover Covid-related issues.

"However, insurance companies will generally require customers to comply with the travel destination's vaccination requirements, which may require specific types of vaccines," Lau added.

She also advised travelers to buy travel insurance immediately after booking air tickets and hotels, so that they have the opportunity to obtain a refund of the tour fee from the travel agency if they fail to depart at a specific time.