Business / Corporate

Crowdfunding projects help virus-hit businesses in Japan

Jiji

Crowdfunding initiatives featuring a “circle of empathy” are supporting restaurant and tourism businesses struggling under the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak in Japan.

Like the rest of the country, the state of emergency was set to be lifted for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures as well as Hokkaido on Monday, but many small businesses are still hesitant to take out loans from financial institutions amid uncertainty over recovery in demand.

Fundraisers in crowdfunding plans often provide donors with meal discount tickets and premium accommodation vouchers.

Several Japanese companies that offer crowdfunding platforms have waived commission fees since late February, when restaurant and hotel operators as well as event hosts suffered sharp falls in sales amid the virus crisis.

Of such companies, Campfire Inc., Readyfor Inc. and MotionGallery Inc. had raised a total of over ¥1.7 billion for at least 1,000 projects by May 8.

Miyuki Ryokan, a Japanese-style inn in Nagoya, took only one day to achieve its goal of collecting ¥500,000 through a crowdfunding service by Campfire.

“We want to overcome the crisis,” Tsutomu Narita, the representative of Miyuki Ryokan, said, while expressing gratitude to supporters.

First-time users, including the inn operator, account for 80 percent of the total users of the service, according to Campfire. Some 800 projects listed on Campfire’s website have so far attracted donations of over ¥1.3 billion.

Eleven restaurants in Tokyo are jointly working on a crowdfunding project.

Of them, Japanese restaurant Kappo Kasahara has closed temporarily in response to the state of emergency declared on April 7 and has almost no sales.

“The burden of personnel costs is heavy,” Mikio Kasahara, the owner of the restaurant, said. “We’re in a desperate situation.”

The 11 restaurants are still far from their goal of raising ¥5 million. Kasahara said that he joined the project to “revitalize the region.”

Crowdfunding initiatives are no magic wand for collecting money.

Masayuki Endo, professor at Shizuoka University, who has expertise in financial information systems, said that fundraisers “need to make efforts such as preparing a variety of return gifts.”

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