Road to Recovery: The "new" approach to hospitality in Japan is...? (Series 4)
OPINION PIECE BY MIKI TAKASHIMA (Osaka, JAPAN)
May 8th, 2020
Although the initial deadline of May 6th has passed, Japan continues its "state of emergency" in regards to the Covid-19 outbreak.
If you are interested in knowing more about how the general public in Japan is or is not reacting to the pandemic, you're welcome to read Dr. Mirei Takashima Claremon's article on How Japan’s unique cultural attitudes explain its people’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
It is heartwarming to see that countries like Germany have decided to positively move forward with easing lockdown measures as of this week, although there always remains a possibility that waves of the virus will strike again in the colder months of the year. I personally am looking forward to seeing other countries' efforts in this realm, especially Japan and other neighboring nations like China.
The discussion I want to raise is two-fold, regarding (1) the future of the inbound tourism industry in Japan in the context of overcrowding and (2) how hotels in Japan will revise hospitality or "omotenashi" strategies as businesses reopen.
Previously Overcrowded Destinations in Japan
As covered by the Japan Times and CNN Travel, Kyoto is given special recognition when it comes to its "must see" status for all travelers. Yes, the municipalities were extremely happy with customer spending and soaring visitor numbers, but did these stakeholders also take into account the negative effects of overcrowded heritage sites and the lack of infrastructure? Perhaps this is a good time to take a step back and plan ahead on how to approach the next wave of inbound tourists while the #stayathome campaigns are in place. For example, the UNWTO has taken appropriate measures to provide for such discussion opportunities already at the 13th UNWTO/PATA Forum on Tourism Trends and Outlook in Guilin from 17 to 19 October 2019.
What will "Omotenashi" look like in the next month or two?
The Tokyo Olympics have been cancelled, and there is no guarantee at this point for its go-ahead in 2021. Many hotel and travel related companies were hard at work preparing for this significant event during this time of year last year, and experts and organizations close to the issue say now that all bulk reservations must be released. Those who planned to participate in the games have lost much motivation, and cancellations are unavoidable in every corner of the hospitality industry. What will it take for consumers to regain confidence again to stay at hotels in large cities like Tokyo? How will hospitality service providers approach the next steps in welcoming back customers to their venues?
For those who are familiar with Japanese culture, you are already aware that the Japanese take off their shoes when entering homes. From a personal perspective, Japan truly is very clean and takes hygiene seriously.
I look forward to researching hotels, restaurants and other hospitality outlets' new strategies on effective cleanliness measures.
Also, a special note for my readers: I have concerns as to what communication tools are being used amid the Covid-19 outbreak -- technology should be approached with much caution as with ZOOM and its current 11 class action lawsuits in the United States.