An explosive resurgence of COVID-19 across Japan is weighing heavily on the tourism industry, which had been pinning high hopes on a recovery in travel demand during the summer vacation period.
The industry’s disappointment has been exacerbated by the Japanese government’s decision Friday to expand its coronavirus state of emergency to Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, all neighboring Tokyo, and the western prefecture of Osaka and to newly give pre-emergency status to five prefectures, including Kyoto, which have many tourist spots. The state of emergency currently covers Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture.
“We usually see our rooms fully occupied in August, but the room booking rate has been under 50% for August this year,” an official at a hotel in the city of Kyoto said. “This summer may end like this.”
Sales have nearly halved from a year before at a souvenir shop in the same city. “We have no expectations from the summer holiday period as new COVID-19 cases have been increasing rapidly,” Moe Yamauchi, manager of the shop, said.
The state of emergency for Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures, and the pre-emergency for Kyoto and four other prefectures will run from Monday to Aug. 31. The emergency for Tokyo and Okinawa, earlier slated to end Aug. 22, has been extended until the end of August.
Major travel agency JTB Corp. said recently that the number of people in Japan who will make overnight or longer domestic trips this summer is estimated to grow 5.3% from a year before. But the current resurgence of the virus has not been factored in the projection.
“We can no longer expect the number of travelers to increase as projected,” a tourism industry source said.
“The situation is so severe that I don’t know what to say,” Hideyuki Sato, a senior official of the Japan Ryokan and Hotel Association, stated.
Some operators of hotels and ryokan Japanese-style inns are considering shuttering their businesses, according to Sato.
Hoping that progress in COVID-19 vaccinations will lead to a recovery in travel demand, the association plans to provide financial support to struggling member hotels and ryokan facilities to help them continue operations.
Transport companies are also having a difficult time in the face of the pandemic. Many major players, such as East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, and airline group ANA Holdings Inc., have reported consolidated net losses for April-June.
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