The possibility of Tokyo being added to the government’s Go To Travel campaign as early as next month is winning support from the tourism industry, although there are concerns that it may lead to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Trips to and from Tokyo are currently excluded from the travel discount campaign, which started on July 22, due to a surge in the number of cases in the capital.
“Tokyo is the center of Japanese tourism,” an official of a major travel agency said, adding that its inclusion “will have a significant impact.”
An official of a Tokyo hotel is also upbeat about the possible change, saying that demand will likely increase.
An official of Hato Bus Co., which offers bus tours around Tokyo, expressed hope that the trend to avoid Tokyo as a travel destination will disappear once it is included in the Go To Travel campaign. Some 70 percent of Hato Bus’ clients are from outside Tokyo.
“I hope the addition of Tokyo will make people think that it is OK to come visit Tokyo,” the official said.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of the government’s response to the epidemic, told a Diet meeting Wednesday that the government will decide in September whether to include Tokyo in the campaign, citing analysis by an expert that new coronavirus cases in the capital are on a declining trend after peaking in around late July.
Even outside Tokyo, many tourist spots are hoping that the addition will lead to a spike in visitors.
“There are few customers from Tokyo,” an official of a hotel in Sapporo said. “It is the effect of Tokyo’s exclusion.”
But the resurgence in coronavirus cases in Tokyo has not subsided, making some worry that the addition would lead to a spike in infection cases again nationwide.
Some regions, such as remote islands, are not in a state to welcome visitors from Tokyo due to a lack of medical facilities that can take in coronavirus patients with severe symptoms.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, at least 4.2 million people have used the campaign in the roughly one month since its launch. But many of them chose areas near their homes as their travel destinations.
The inclusion of Tokyo in the campaign may only lead to Tokyoites making short-distance trips and people living near Tokyo traveling to the capital, limiting the benefits of the policy to the metropolitan area, analysts warned.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike made no specific comments on the central government’s plan to make a decision in September on whether to add Tokyo to the campaign. “We are now working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” she told reporters at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building Wednesday.
“We are asking people and businesses in Tokyo for cooperation (in the fight against the virus), and would like to seek their continued understanding,” Koike added.
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