Japan mulling restart of Go To Travel scheme in July

A sign for ‘Go To Travel’ campaign, a government-backed travel discount program encouraging domestic travel to help boost the economy, is displayed at a souvenir shop along Nakamise Street at Asakusa district, a popular sightseeing spot, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Tokyo on Oct. 13, 2020.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government is considering restarting its “Go To Travel” domestic tourism promotion campaign in July, government sources said Friday.

The move comes as the COVID-19 situation in Japan continues to improve, with the country set to resume the acceptance of foreign tourists on June 10.

“We hope to restart the campaign in early or mid-July,” a government official said. Some in the government are calling for the campaign to be restarted from as early as this month.

Meanwhile, the government is considering revising the scheme so that it can respond flexibly to a possible resurgence in infections, as well as renaming it for an image renewal.

The government is slated to make a decide whether to restart the Go To Travel campaign as early as next week. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to explain the decision to the public.

Kishida apparently hopes to use the opportunity to tout the resumption of economic and social activity ahead of the House of Councillors election this summer.

The campaign was launched in July 2020 to support the tourism industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. It offered subsidies of up to ¥20,000 per person per night to cover half of users’ travel expenses,

The scheme, however, was suspended in December the same year due to a resurgence of the virus.

Since April last year, the government has promoted an alternative program in which prefectural governments offer discounts for short-distance travel.

If restarting the domestic tourism campaign, the government is expected to scrap its previous policy of suspending and resuming the campaign uniformly across the country.

Instead, the prefecture-based discount scheme is expected to be expanded to cover nationwide travel. Each prefecture can decide on offering or suspending travel discounts based on their respective COVID-19 circumstances.

Calls for rebranding the Go To Travel campaign, meanwhile, reflect its history of being a target of criticism as then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had insisted on continuing the initiative amid a jump in new coronavirus cases.

“We will carefully consider [the scheme’s resumption] based on expert opinion, while assessing the state of infections,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Friday.