Osaka – In yet another reversal regarding the controversial Go To Travel campaign, the government announced Tuesday that cancellation fees for travel to and from Tokyo would be reimbursed for reservations made between July 10 and July 17, before the capital was excluded from the program.
The decision came just four days after the government said it was not considering reimbursing the cost of the canceled Tokyo trips under the discount campaign, which begins Wednesday.
At a meeting of Liberal Democratic Party executives Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directed his government to take measures that would ensure travelers would not be at a disadvantage over payment of such fees.
“We decided that we didn’t sufficiently get the word out about cancellation fees, and are making it clear to travel companies what the procedures are,” tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba told reporters.
Akaba said the government would inform travel companies that those who made reservations to and from Tokyo between July 10, the day travel reservations under the discount campaign opened, and July 17, the day the government announced it would exclude such travel from the program, will not have to pay cancellation fees.
“If travel agencies have already collected cancellation fees, we’ll direct them to refund their customers and the government will reimburse them for that portion,” Akaba added.
After spikes in new novel coronavirus infections in Tokyo, the government announced Thursday that travel to and from Tokyo would no longer fall under the Go To Travel campaign, which is set to discount travel fees by 35 percent. On Tuesday, Tokyo recorded 237 new coronavirus cases.
The sudden decision to exclude Tokyo threw the campaign into disarray, angering travel agents and their customers, as well as raising questions about what would happen with cancellation fees.
There was also confusion over whether to include large group tours for younger or older people in the travel campaign.
Previously, the government had said it wanted large group tours with such people — who might be at a higher risk of spreading or catching the virus — to be exempt from the discount campaign as well.
But Akaba said there was not a uniform exclusion for those people.
Student groups on study or educational tours that observe social distancing and travel with responsible adults may still be eligible for the discounts.
The ¥1.35 trillion travel campaign was designed to boost domestic travel at a time when international travel is all but nonexistent. Originally scheduled to begin in early August, it was moved up to Wednesday in hope of taking advantage of the four-day holiday weekend that begins Thursday.
The Go To Travel campaign is billed as subsidizing half of a traveler’s expenses, with discounts of up to 35 percent available for certain costs, and coupons, issued from September, offering deductions of up to 15 percent for food, shopping and other activities at the destination.
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