• Jiji


Japanese tourism and transport businesses have been shocked by the government’s decision to put Tokyo under a COVID-19 state of emergency for the fourth time following a coronavirus resurgence.

The state of emergency will be in place from Monday through Aug. 22, during which many people usually take summer vacations and visit their parents’ homes.

Olympics organizers and others also decided Thursday to hold Tokyo Olympics events without spectators at venues in the Japanese capital, where the emergency is set to continue throughout the Olympics period from July 23.

The tourism and transport industries are increasingly braced for a raft of cancellations of travel reservations and reductions in flight services.

“Travel demand, which has been gradually recovering, will surely be heavily affected by the emergency declaration,” JTB Corp. chairman Hiroyuki Takahashi, also vice chairperson of the Japan Association of Travel Agents, said during a news conference on Thursday.

Takahashi said he is eager to seek government assistance, such as a compensation program to cover cancellation-related losses, if necessary.

A senior official of a major travel agency expects package tours to and from Tokyo during the emergency period to be canceled.

“We need to use employment adjustment subsidies and other state aid to cover losses from cancellations,” the official said.

On Thursday, the central government also decided to extend the ongoing state of emergency for the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa until Aug. 22.

The extension is “a crushing blow,” an official of another major travel agency said, noting that “Okinawa is a classic domestic travel destination in summer.”

An employee of a major hotel in Tokyo voiced concerns that “customers who had planned to watch Olympic events may cancel their reservations.”

Japan Airlines said Thursday that it would cancel some 700 domestic flights initially scheduled for the second half of July and 3,300 flights planned for the first half of August.

But the company will likely have to make further reductions as the plans announced Thursday do not reflect the emergency declaration for Tokyo or the extension of the emergency in Okinawa. “We’re facing hardship,” a JAL official said.

ANA Holdings Inc.’s All Nippon Airways is set to announce new flight schedules reflecting the latest developments at an early date.

East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, plans to run extra services on its Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train line and additional express trains on other lines later this month.

The fourth emergency in Tokyo will have “no small impact” on passenger numbers and train service revenues as people’s movements during the four-day weekend starting July 22 and the Olympic period will be restricted, a JR East official said.

Central Japan Railway Co., or JR Central, also plans to run extra services on its Tokaido Shinkansen line from July 21 to 31, but the plan is likely to reviewed.

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