Tokyo to subsidize hotel discounts in Hokkaido to help tourism recover from quake

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

To offset the damage to Hokkaido’s tourism, the central government is planning to offer discounts to all travelers who visit the quake-hit prefecture.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a tourism-related meeting Friday that the plan involves subsidizing discounts on hotel stays.

Some details — including the initiative’s budget, the timing of its rollout and how to apply the special rates — are still being worked out, but the government plans to act fast, an official at the Japan Tourism Agency said.

Abe brought up the discount plan during his final days of campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election Thursday, which he won by a comfortable margin.

The central government spent ¥18 billion to support Kyushu after a string of deadly earthquakes rocked Kumamoto Prefecture in 2016. The JTA official said the measures for Hokkaido will likely be similar and target both domestic and foreign tourists.

In 2016 it subsidized Kyushu tour packages sold by travel agencies, with discounts of up to 70 percent applied to those based in Kumamoto and adjacent Oita, and discounts of 50 percent applied to the island’s other prefectures.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government estimated last week that the level 7 quake on Sept. 6 caused hotel cancellations involving about 942,000 people and about ¥29.2 billion in tourism-related losses.

Efforts to promote safety and reinvigorate tourism are already underway.

In the Jozankei Onsen hot spring district on the outskirts of Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo, which saw roughly 27,000 hotel cancellations after the magnitude 6.7 quake, nine facilities halved fees for single-day travelers.

A Sapporo-based tour bus company has sent guides to about 50 tourist spots to post photos on social media showing the spots are safe.

Further south in Hakodate, the city has posted a YouTube video showing that business is back to usual since the quake.

“There is no problem with transportation and accommodation to accept tourists in most areas (of Hokkaido), except for the epicenter, so Hokkaido is safe now,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said at a news conference Tuesday.

Tokyo is also financially supporting tourism in 13 prefectures in western Japan, most notably Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime, which were hit by deadly torrential rain in July.

If travelers visit and stay in the three prefectures for more than two days, they can receive up to ¥6,000 in discounts on their accommodations and discounts of up to ¥4,000 for staying in the other 10 prefectures in the region — Gifu, Kyoto, Hyogo, Tottori, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Kochi and Fukuoka.

Information from Kyodo added