The tourism industry in Japan is showing signs of a pickup after the novel coronavirus crisis dealt it a severe blow.
Many lodging facilities that resumed business after the lifting of the government’s coronavirus state of emergency in May are seeing a gradual recovery in reservations this month, mainly from local customers. Financial aid from local governments for regional tourism has also contributed to a pickup in demand.
However, inbound tourists from outside Japan remain almost nonexistent, and concerns over a second wave of coronavirus infections linger.
“Cancellations of domestic travel reservations have peaked out,” a Nippon Travel Agency Co. official said, adding that new inquiries started to increase this month.
According to Tokyo-based Tripla, which operates a travel reservation system, the number of reservations for 300 domestic hotels through the system fell to a record low in mid-April, but recovered to 70 percent of pre-coronavirus crisis levels in late May.
The pickup in domestic travel demand has been backed mainly by customers from nearby areas. According to Prince Hotels Inc., reservations for its hotels, chiefly by customers visiting by car, are on the rise.
Support by local governments is also helping drive tourism. Gunma Prefecture has begun a campaign to give its residents financial aid to cover part of costs for their stays at lodging facilities in the prefecture.
As a result, Boun, a hotel in the Kusatsu hot spring resort in the prefecture, is seeing growth in the number of local customers, who previously accounted for only about 10 percent of its total clients.
“Sales in June are expected to return to around 60 percent of the year-before level,” an official of the hotel said.
Fukutokuya Ryokan, a hotel in the city of Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, is also enjoying an upswing in sales thanks to aid by the city and prefecture.
“We hope this will become an opportunity for locals to realize that there is a place nearby for them to have fun,” a representative of the hotel said.
The government’s request for refraining from travel across prefectural borders was lifted on Friday. However, concerns regarding the epidemic still remain, and people in the tourism industry are staying cautious despite the improved conditions.