Field Notes: May 2024

coffee shop in japan

Weak yen opens doors for a dream vacation to Japan

Tokyo, Japan.  Photo: Clay Banks.

Japan might well currently be the hottest tourist destination on the planet. The country just broke its pre-pandemic tourist record, with 3.1 million foreign visitors in March. The government said it's on track to surpass 2025's target of 32 million annual foreign visitors this year, after 8.6 million tourists visited in the first quarter of 2024, thanks in part to a weak yen. .

Japan opened to tourists in October 2022, after over two years of strict, pandemic-induced border restrictions. Pent-up demand, combined with a cheaper currency, has fueled the record number of visitors who are staying there for longer

The flip side: Once renowned as avid overseas tourists, the Japanese are staying closer to home these days. A weaker yen, high air fares and tepid wage growth are keeping outbound travel stuck well below pre-pandemic levels. Just 1.22 million ventured abroad in March, 36.8% less compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

If you don't mind the crowds, now might just be the best time to stretch your dollars on an epic visit to Japan. 

TSA PreCheck enrollment is now available through CLEAR at these airports

Photo: CLEAR

Travelers can now enroll for the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program at CLEAR locations in three airports as the Department of Homeland Security expands the ways to sign up. Orlando International Airport (MCO), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Sacramento International Airport (SMF) will be the first locations to allow PreCheck enrollment at Clear sites. The program will be expanded in the coming months. You don't need an appointment and memberships last for five years.

CLEAR Plus allows for a quick identity verification experience at the airport. Step right up to a CLEAR pod and verify you are you with your eyes or fingerprints.

TSA PreCheck is a U.S. government program that identifies travelers deemed low-risk by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Once approved to participate in the program, it allows travelers to pass through expedited security screening at U.S. airports nationwide with no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. This allows travelers to enjoy a more convenient and efficient experience at airport security. Many members find that these two services complement each other — providing the quickest, surest route through the airport.

The process is simple. Pre-enroll online and then complete the application in person at a CLEAR kiosk. By applying for both services at the same time with CLEAR, you can save 35% in costs. CLEAR Plus will let you skip you to the front of the line, and TSA PreCheck will give you access to the lane where you don’t have to take off your shoes, belt or jacket.

Airlines expand routes for summer adventures

Photo: Ryuno

American Airlines will launch new flights between New York City (JFK) and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) starting on June 28. American will also launch a new daily flight between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Barcelona, Spain (BCN) starting in June.

Alaska Airlines will start weekly flights between Anchorage, Alaska and San Diego starting May 18, followed by daily flights from Anchorage to New York City (JFK) beginning June 13.

Delta Air Lines is planning to resume daily nonstop service between New York City (JFK) and Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) on June 7.

JetBlue will start daily seasonal service from New York's JFK Airport to Scotland's Edinburgh Airport (EDI) on May 22. The service is scheduled through September 30, 2024. JetBlue will also add a second daily flight from New York's JFK to Paris, France (CDG) on June 20.

Beginning June 4, Southwest Airlines will launch daily service between Orlando, Florida and a handful of warm-weather destinations, including Cancun, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Nassau, Bahamas; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and San José, Costa Rica.

United Airlines will expand its presence in the Philippines with new year-round, non-stop service from Tokyo-Narita to Cebu starting July 31. Before that, the airline will add a second daily flight between New York/Newark and Porto, Portugal starting May 23.

Bark’s new luxury airline gives dogs a first-class flight experience

Photo: Bark Air

Get ready for pampered pups taking flight. Bark Air, a new airline from the folks behind BarkBox, is here to revolutionize dog travel. Imagine first-class amenities like comfy beds, calming scents, and gourmet meals – all for your furry friend. This isn't a joke; Bark Air is partnering with a private jet charter company to offer initial flights from New York, Los Angeles, and London. Human companions are welcome, but the focus is on canine comfort. Dedicated concierges ensure a smooth experience, from pre-flight meet-and-sniffs to in-flight "turbulence treats." While the launch features limited routes and a hefty price tag (think $6,000 for a one-way between New York and LA!), Bark Air aims to expand based on customer feedback and eventually bring down costs. This innovative airline might just be the first step in a new era of luxurious dog-friendly travel.

Italy and Japan open up digital nomad visas

Photo: Lewis J. Goetz

Calling all remote workers. Italy's highly anticipated digital nomad visa program is finally open for applications. If you're a skilled non-EU/EEA citizen with your own health insurance, proof of accommodation, and an annual income exceeding $30,000, you can live and work in Italy for a year. The visa can be renewed annually. To apply, schedule an in-person appointment at your nearest Italian consulate.

This month, Japan also introduced the digital nomad visa tailored for remote workers, requiring a minimum annual income of JPY 10 million ($68,300) to qualify. Citizens from 49 countries and territories with either a tax treaty or reciprocal visa-exemption with Japan, including all EU nations, U.S., UK, Turkey, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, can apply. Holders of the digital nomad visa can stay in Japan for up to six months. Applicants must be tourists working remotely for overseas companies or freelancing for international clients. They must possess private health insurance. Accompanying spouses and children are permitted to stay for the duration of the visa.

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