For the second year in a row, parts of Japan are heading into the Golden Week holiday season under the cloud of a coronavirus state of emergency, with shoppers and travelers again facing tough quasi-restrictions on their movements.
The country’s third state of emergency, scheduled to last at least 17 days from Sunday to May 11, is expected to dramatically impact industries that were hopeful ahead of the usually bountiful Golden Week holidays.
The four prefectures under the emergency declaration — Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto — make up a large chunk of Japan’s population and are also known as popular tourist destinations. But travel demand to the four will likely remain low, dealing yet another blow to the tourism industry.
Speaking during a news conference Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged people to abide by the measures and asked those outside the capital to refrain from visiting as much as possible.
“I’d like to again make a request to people in Tokyo. Please make sure to stay at home. Also, please cancel or postpone your travel plans and homecoming visits,” Koike said.
But Koike may not have much to worry about, in terms of visiting the capital venturing outside it.
A recent survey by travel agency JTB Corp. has shown that consumers are simply not in a traveling mood.
According to the online survey conducted on 20,000 people between April 9 to April 14, just 10.3% said they would or would probably travel during Golden Week. In the 2018 and 2019 polls, the figures for the same question were more than double that figure, at 25.2% and 26.3%, respectively.
Even among those who said they may travel, 67.8% noted that their trips would be one night or two nights.
Local media have reported that hotels and ryokan inns nationwide have seen a spate of cancellations of reservations for Golden Week.
Tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said Friday that the ministry will extend the deadline for a financial aid program for those who travel within their prefectures until the end of this year.
The subsidy, which offers an individual up to ¥7,000 per night, was scheduled to end in May, but since prefectures hard-hit by the virus have been unable to actually launch the travel program, the ministry decided to keep it in place.
The nation’s third state of emergency will this time also spell bad news for department stores already suffering from the fallout of the pandemic.
Unlike the second state of emergency, large shopping facilities such as department stores are being asked to close this time in an attempt to more thoroughly restrict people’s movement.
Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings announced Saturday that it will continue to open its food and cosmetics sections and some other services at its four department stores in Tokyo but will close all other sections. Tokyu Department Store Co. also said it will work to keep its food and cosmetics sections, as well as part of its restaurant area open but close all others at its major Tokyo stores.
The government will pay ¥200,000 daily to facilities with floor areas over 1,000 square meters, such as department stores and shopping centers, that comply with the business closure request. But this amount is widely expected to be a small amount when compared with the impact to sales and costs.
Under the first state of emergency issued in April and May of last year, many department stores halted their operations, dragging down earnings.
Takashimaya Co. posted its first net loss in 17 years in fiscal 2020, falling ¥33.9 billion into the red, while J. Front Retailing Co. logged its first net loss of ¥26.1 billion since the firm was launched after the merger of the Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department store operators in 2007.
Information from Kyodo added
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