As economies around the world spiral into a freefall, it seems no industry has been harder hit than travel. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of foreign visitors to some countries dropped to near-zero. Japan is one such destination, and now the country is considering a radical plan to bolster tourism by essentially paying international travelers to visit.
The Japan Tourism Agency recently announced the “Go To Travel” initiative. It’s designed to subsidize the leisure trips of tourists by paying up to 20,000 yen (approximately USD $185) per day for the duration of their stay. The goal is to cover roughly half of each trip through a combination of vouchers and discounts at restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and hotels throughout the country. The program will be available to domestic and, once the country reopens its borders, international travelers.
Tourism to Japan hit a record high in 2019 with more than 32 million international travelers. But, the country took a substantial hit last October after raising the federal consumption (sales) tax to 10%. For foreign tourists, this made visiting an already expensive country even more expensive. A few short months later, the pandemic forced the country to close its borders to more than 100 countries. Most of its citizens stopped going to work, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, and the number of international visitors dropped by a staggering 99.99%. Less than 3,000 international tourists visited the country last month. The country is now desperate to restart its economy by any means necessary.
Japan isn’t the first country to consider subsidizing tourists’ vacations. In April, the island of Sicily confirmed a similar plan. The popular Italian destination will cover 50% of visitors’ airfare costs, plus one out of every three hotel nights for the duration of their stay. The Italian government also plans to waive entry fees to all museums and historic sites throughout the island.
Official details for the Go To Travel campaign are still vague, as nothing has been finalized. If international travel restrictions continue to ease up over the next few weeks, Japan could launch the plan by late July or August of 2020. If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting Japan, this could be the perfect year to plan a vacation.
In the meantime, get a jump on planning your next trip to Japan with our essential guides to Tokyo, onsen etiquette, and the burgeoning world of Japanese wine.
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