Road to Recovery: Will there really be a 1.35 trillion yen Travel Program? (Series 6)
OPINION PIECE BY MIKI TAKASHIMA (Osaka, JAPAN)
May 22nd, 2020
Amid much uncertainty of all countries affected by COVID-19, there are talks that Japan will produce a travel fund to reboost inbound tourism. The amount presented is approximately 1.35 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) and this will most likely directly contribute to anyone considering or revisiting the idea of travel to Japan.
A direct quote from the Japan Tourism Agency's Commissioner's message as of January 2020:
"Turning our attention to international tourism, in 2018, we surpassed 30 million international visitors for the first time reaching 31.19 million. Last year, due to the aforementioned natural disasters and tensions between Japan and South Korea, saw months where there were less visitors than in the same month the previous year but the total number of international visitors between January and November was at 29.36 million, a 2.8% increase from 2018 indicating that numbers are still on record pace.
Looking ahead to 2020, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are finally upon us as well as the chance to reach our 2020 annual target of 40 million overseas visitors."
As COVID-19 presented itself unexpectedly, the hospitality and tourism sector across the globe has been hit extremely hard, where 99.9% (which is literally almost 100%!) of inbound tourist numbers have decreased compared to the same time last year (April 2020). Not surprising.
Even before this extreme situation, was Japan really "ready" to welcome so many tourists in the first place? Since 2013 when I left the UNWTO, inbound tourism numbers has seen significant increases, which was great for the general economy of the country, yet the details of the plan and strategy were not well orchestrated. For example, as mentioned in my previous post, Kyoto certainly faced many overcrowding issues, as tourists and locals were forced to co-mingle and public transportation within the city was not well planned out.
With this large sum and fund to assist the travel industry, what will be covered?
The good news is that the #Osakamodel is seeing continued success in the decrease of the corona virus infections, and other prefectures and municipalities will simply need to follow suit if they want to "go back to normal business practices". Tokyo, on the other hand, with the dense population and much of the population going back and forth between surrounding areas (like Kanagawa, Saitama, Gunma), the decrease the government will be satisfied with has not been reached yet. Many experts have stated that Tokyo and the central government was waiting to see if Osaka will meet satisfying data points first, before making their own decisions.
What will the "new normal" look like for travelers in Japan, domestically and internationally?
There is much research to be done in terms of how the "trust" of the traveler will be satisfied.
I look forward to seeing how the industry will do their part in ensuring a safe, healthy and exciting travel experience for globetrotters like myself.