• JIJI, Kyodo

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The central government has decided to provide subsidies covering up to 70 percent of the cost of tours to Hokkaido, where tourism demand has slumped due to a powerful earthquake early this month.

The subsidy program for the prefecture is among the measures adopted at a meeting of related ministers to support areas recently hit by major natural disasters.

“I hope support measures will be implemented promptly, so the disaster-affected people can look forward and work to rebuild their daily lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the meeting Friday.

A total of ¥11.2 billion will be provided to support Hokkaido’s vital tourism industry after the magnitude 6.7 quake caused a drop in the number of tourists to the island, one of the country’s most popular travel destinations.

The quake killed 41 people and triggered a prefecture-wide blackout.

From Oct. 1, the central government will shoulder between 50 to 70 percent of lodging costs up to the value of ¥20,000 for domestic travelers for up to three nights and 70 percent for foreign guests for up to five nights.

More than ¥100 billion is estimated to be required for recovery from the Sept. 6 quake, centered southeast of Sapporo, and a trio of strong typhoons that battered wide areas of central and western Japan in August and September.

The central government designated the damage in Hokkaido and the typhoon-hit areas as “extremely severe” and will provide 10 to 20 percent more subsidies to hard-hit municipalities than it usually does for smaller disasters, in order to assist with the repair of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and agricultural facilities.

Abe said the government will launch a 24-hour call service in multiple languages and further promote the provision of information for foreign visitors when transportation and public services are disrupted. It will help airports bring in more staffers who speak Chinese and Korean, for instance.

The decision comes after foreign tourists voiced concern about the limited availability of guidance in foreign languages at airports, train stations and other facilities at the time of the disasters.

The infrastructure subsidies will cover nine typhoon-affected municipalities in Niigata, Nagano, Osaka, Nara and Wakayama prefectures.

Of the three typhoons, Jebi left 13 people dead and took a toll on western Japan by causing the temporary closure of Kansai International Airport.

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