Tokyo police have arrested a 30-year-old man on suspicion that he illegally acquired coupons distributed under the government’s Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign.
The suspect, Takuya Aida, a resident of Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, has admitted to the charges.
The case marks the first time an arrest has been made for improper acquisition of the coupons.
The campaign is designed to spur tourism spending amid the coronavirus crisis by discounting 35% of the travel costs and distributing paper or electronic coupons valued at 15% of the costs that can be used in travel destinations.
Aida allegedly acquired e-coupons worth some ¥540,000 by making reservations for five stays at four different hotels in Tokyo through a travel agency website in early October, even though he had no plans to actually stay at the hotels.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the campaign’s electronic coupons are issued at 3 p.m. or later on the day of a stay, even before the traveler checks in at the reserved hotel. Multiple cases in which cancellations of hotel reservations were made apparently with the aim of fraudulently acquiring Go To Travel coupons have been confirmed, the agency said.
As Aida made reservations for long stays, each for at least a week, the hotels suffered significant financial losses estimated to total around ¥5 million, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. The suspect said he committed the misconduct based on information he acquired through social media. He also said he used the coupons to buy a smartphone and video games.
As a measure to prevent improper acquisitions of Go To Travel coupons, the Japan Tourism Agency starting confirming people’s IDs via text messages on Wednesday.
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