Japan’s Confusing “Go To Travel” Campaign

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Japan’s “Go To Travel”-campaign made international headlines back in May (read more here and here) when first it was thought to offer 50% rebates for travel to and within Japan.

The Japanese government later clarified that the rebate would only apply for domestic travel and, while international travelers wouldn’t be excluded, the country’s border stays closed for most non-Japanese arrival, including foreign residents.

The program was supposed to start in August when many Japanese take their summer holidays. The government (with record-low approval ratings), however, decided to bring it forward to include a four day weekend in late July, and it is now scheduled to begin, if not canceled before, this coming Wednesday (July 22).

Here’s a PDF that explains the program:

Download (PDF, 1.94MB)

The program covers 35% of the accommodation costs (max 20,000 yen per person per night – 14,000 refund), and another 15% in money vouchers to be used at local shops (up to 6,000 per person per night).

The maximum compensation per day: 20,000 (accommodation must be 40,000 –  50% rebate). You get up to 70% back as a rebate (14,000 yen – cash essentially) and 30% in local usage vouchers (6,000 yen in funny money).

The government has budgeted $12.59B for the program, of which 20% goes to the administration costs (independent companies).

There was confusion on Friday when the tourism minister stated that he would not like to see young and old traveling, and preferably not in groups of 50 people or more.

Also, Tokyo is now temporarily excluded from the program. Those living in the city or others wishing to visit Tokyo won’t be reimbursed under Go To Travel. This is due to the recent spike in Covid-19 in the city. The decision to exclude the capital will be revisited if the infection rates drop.

The hotels and agencies should offer lower rates for bookings starting on July 27. It seems that the most prominent travel agencies will benefit from this program.

Conclusion

I went through the PDFs to find out how this program works, and it appears to be very heavy on bureaucracy (not a surprise in Japan).

Not sure what would prevent hotels from jacking up their prices by 50% and then giving the 35% discount? Am I the only one who sees this as a possibility? How these local vouchers work that you get at some later date?

I think that it is a good idea trying to help the travel sector, but I would have preferred a more straightforward program.

Not sure how many will use it on its current form when Tokyo is excluded (both residents and travelers to the city), and the minister in charge of the sector sends confusing signals who should travel (not too young or old)?

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