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Coronavirus

Hokkaido ski resorts feel labor pinch as Japan reopens borders

Niseko hotels see reservations rising, but struggle to hire foreign staff

The COVID-19 pandemic meant few skiers on the normally crowded slopes of Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu ski resort in Hokkaido in December 2021. (Photo by Masatoshi Ida)

SAPPORO -- With the Japanese government recently deciding to ease entry restrictions for overseas tourists, Chitose Airport near Sapporo is preparing to welcome visitors again. And Niseko, a major winter resort two and a half hours' drive west, is taking more reservations for the upcoming ski season.

All seems well, but there is one glaring weakness in the tourism business in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido: a shortage of foreign staff.

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