National

Japanese tourism industry paying extra attention to virus safety to lure crowds back

Jiji

The tourism industry is working hard to bring back crowds scared off by the coronavirus by making various efforts to maximize hygiene and prevent infection as cross-prefecture travel resumes.

Sakura Jozankei Zen, a hotel that lets guests reserve entire houses, opened in May on the outskirts of Sapporo. It has quickly become popular because people can stay at the houses without coming into contact with other guests or hotel employees.

Check-in and checkout are conducted through a tablet-type device in front of the entrance to each building.

The employees place food in a special serving area set up within the guest rooms at meal times, so the only time when guests and staff make contact will be during an emergency.

According to the company that runs the hotel, the system was originally adopted as a measure to combat the national labor shortage but ended up providing a way to reduce physical contact as well, limiting the potential spread of the virus.

“On some days, all of the facilities are fully booked,” an official from the company said.

“We may be able to attract inbound visitors once the pandemic calms down,” the official added.

At the opposite end of Japan, the remote islands in popular Okinawa are also devoted to slowing the coronavirus.

The city of Ishigaki and the towns of Taketomi and Yonaguni have signed an agreement with local inns to check on guests’ health by phone three days after they check out.

As people usually develop symptoms five to six days after being infected if not asymptomatic, the city and towns have recommended that visitors stay longer as it will be easier to identify those who have come into close contact with infected guests.

The governments have called on such facilities to prioritize reservations for at least a week.

“As airplane is the only means to get to the island and visitors will almost always stay for the night, we will be able to find out the schedule and other details of guests if we obtain cooperation from accommodation facilities,” an official at the Ishigaki Municipal Government said.

On the other hand, many on the remote islands are still wary of accepting tourists as there are several risks specific to the areas, including inadequate medical systems.

“While we are seeing more and more visitors from outside the prefecture, we are not happy to see them, to be honest,” an official of Yonaguni’s tourism association said, citing concerns about mediocre coronavirus measures.

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