There was a good deal of excitement when the idea of discounts for domestic travel was announced on May 26 by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism, Kazuyoshi Akaba, along with a few doubts that the scheme would be available in time for the summer holiday season. But on July 10, he fleshed out the details of the promotion campaign to boost domestic tourism.
Starting from July 22, people traveling within Japan will be eligible for discounts of half the cost of qualified travel and accommodations. The discount can be up to a maximum of ¥20,000 JPY (about $186 USD) per night per person (¥10,000 JPY, about $93 USD, if it’s a day trip).
The discounts are valid from July 22, 2020, through an undisclosed date in spring 2021, and travelers can make use of the promotion as many times as they wish.
The campaign was put together in all haste to meet the possible rush from the four-day weekend of July 23-26, which includes the public holidays of “Marine Day” and “Sports Day.” To top it off, the end of July and the beginning of August coincide with the summer holiday period known in Japan as “Obon,” which is a time of year that many travel back to their hometowns.
However, as the capital Tokyo registered more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 per day for four consecutive days last week, many have been concerned about the risks of promoting a tourism campaign which could spread the contagion to the countryside.
As of July 12, the Minister of Economic Revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura shared his view, saying: “It is necessary to continue the initiative to carry out the promotion campaign, while putting in place [virus] prevention measures.”
Details of the Discounts
Out of the discount covering half the travel costs, it’s envisioned that up to 70% will be applicable immediately, from the start of the campaign. To give a concrete example, if the combined cost of a ticket and a stay in a hotel amount to ¥20,000 JPY per one night, you are eligible for a 50% discount of ¥10,000 JPY, of which 70% (¥7,000 JPY) will take the shape of a direct discount or reimbursement.
If bookings are carried out through designated travel agencies, accommodation booking sites, or directly with the accommodation facilities themselves, the discount will be applied to the final price upon booking.
Those who have already booked their tickets can also take advantage of the campaign by submitting for reimbursement on a special government website which is currently under construction. Reimbursement will only be allowed with all required documents, such as receipts.
For the remaining 30% of the discount (in our example of a total ¥10,000 JPY discount, this would be equivalent to ¥3,000 JPY), travelers will be eligible for ￥1,000 JPY coupons to be spent in the general area of the travel destination at designated establishments selling souvenirs, local goods, food, or leisure activities. These coupons are set to be distributed from September 2020.
In view of the start of the campaign, some websites have published a temporary page to attract potential customers excited from the hype.
A New Way to Travel
To address the quickly developing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism has published a set of guidelines for travelers to help minimize the risk of inadvertently spreading the coronavirus to less intensely populated regions.
The guidelines include helpful tips, such as double-checking the contagion situation at your chosen destination, taking everyday precautions such as wearing masks and using disinfectant, remembering to socially distance, airing accommodation rooms when possible, and so on.
While appealing to everyone to check the government suggested guidelines, to help curb some of the fears, Minister Yoshimura also revealed that the government is considering putting in place more PCR testing centers to help monitor the spread of the virus and identify clusters.
For more information, make sure to check the website of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism as the promotion date draws closer.
Author: Arielle Busetto