Asia Minute: Confusion Plagues Japan’s Domestic Tourism Promotion Program

Dec 3, 2020

Travel restrictions are in the news locally this week as Kauai has dropped out of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program and state officials are considering other adjustments to the process. In Japan, there is controversy about a different kind of travel program.

It’s been a confusing several days for a Japanese government program encouraging domestic tourism.

The “Go To Travel” initiative started back in July, with the goal of supporting local businesses suffering from a lack of visitors — domestic and international. The program was put together to provide subsidies for travel to locations that did not have high numbers of cases of the coronavirus.

Tokyo was not included in the initial round, but joined in October, following a decline in case numbers.

Now the numbers are back up, and while Sapporo and Osaka have dropped out of the program, Tokyo’s still a part of it.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga still strongly supports the program — while Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike feels a bit differently.

Earlier this week, she said that older people and others especially vulnerable to the virus should not use the program to go in or out of the national capital.

Medical consultants have recommended the entire Go To Travel program be suspended, at least until the case numbers stabilize around the country.

The entire situation raises another question — should pandemic-related rules and restrictions be set by a central government or by local and regional governments?

Or is it possible to use some combination?

In Japan, that remains an open question.