What Is the “Go To Travel” Campaign?
The “Go To Travel” campaign will eventually help support travel costs by subsidizing half of the expenses, including accommodation and transport fees. Initially, the discount from the government will cover 35% of all costs. According to the tourism ministry, a remaining 15% will be given in the form of coupons after September to cover food, shopping, and other travel activities.
Domestic travelers who have already made travel plans from July 22 onwards can still receive discounts by applying after they have returned from their travels. They will have to apply through campaign operators such as the Japanese Association of Travel Agents and JTB Corp.
The travel campaign will pay a consortium of contractors — consisting of seven entities from five bidders — resulting in an estimated total cost of 189.5 billion yen ($1.77 billion), 40 billion yen ($372 million) less than the maximum amount offered by the government.
How Will Travelers Stay Protected?
The tourism minister has asked all accommodation services to be extra cautious by taking thorough measures. The total recorded COVID-19 cases in Japan, excluding cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently totals 21,500. If there is an increase in cases due to domestic travel, the travel agencies running the campaign will also limit the number of domestic flights and travelers.
The campaign aims to help other prefectures in the country who are struggling with the economy and need tourism in order to succeed. Due to the pandemic, many small and large business owners have struggled, with some companies even leading to bankruptcy.
The Current Damage
Japan has faced a huge blow due to the pandemic. The country was meant to host the Olympic Games this year, but the high increase of global cases led to postponement until next year.
The Japanese government proposed a travel ban to 129 countries earlier this year, as well as a ban on applying for travel visas. This was done to prevent travelers from coming to Japan and contribute towards the spread of COVID-19.
Japan is currently in talks with ten other countries — including China, South Korea, and Taiwan — to ease travel restrictions, including prioritizing business travel. The Japan National Tourism Organisation recorded that the number of international travelers in April 2020 was 2,900 — a massive plunge of -99.9% from the previous year. It is uncertain when all international travelers will be able to fly to Japan again.
Foreign residents living in Japan have also been turned away, a move that sparked controversy within the country. Many foreign residents were left stranded after traveling to visit families and attend funerals because of the pandemic. Some students, worried about their places in school, continued to pay rent for their student accommodation even though they were not there.
What Will Be Done Next?
The "Go To Travel" campaign provides a bit of hope for Japan's local economy and residents. It may help save longstanding businesses that rely on tourists to make a profit. Japan preparing eased restrictions for a select number of countries is also the start of something positive, as this move may slowly open other international travel in the future.
With extra precautions being taken, some historical monuments and tourist attractions such as Disneyland have opened up again to both domestic tourists and residents. In most prefectures, there has been a low number of cases, with higher case counts in large prefectures such as Osaka and Tokyo.
About the Author
As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.