Another round of coupons for domestic travel in Japan might be just around the corner

The Japanese government plans to relaunch travel discount campaign they have operated in previous years, offering vouchers to be used at national hotels and restaurants.

The promotion was designed to boost Japan’s tourism sector, which has been pretty much exclusively based on domestic customers since Japan became a hermit kingdom 2.5 years ago.

Japan is still one of the most popular countries for visitors to want to visit in the world, but with its borders closed to individual tourism since March 2020, the country’s tourism sector has been hit hard.

Since the start of the pandemic, Japan has made it almost impossible for foreigners to enter the country unless they are staying in the country as foreign residents, workers, students or family visas. Last year, Japan also began allowing business travelers to apply for visas at Japanese embassies and consulates, as the visa waiver program was also discontinued.

Then this year the government rolled out a plan to allow North Korean-style guided tours to come to Japan, which was a massive failure as only a few thousand arrived, most of them from Thailand.

Now, the Japan Times is reporting that the government is again trying to boost tourism by reviving the fall/winter travel coupon campaign.

The government plans to launch a national travel rebate scheme as early as this fall, after a delay due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Initially, the government planned to launch the scheme, intended to support the hospitality and transport industries hard hit by the pandemic, in July.

The program would expand the existing one offering discounts and coupons for travel to local areas.

Under the new program, public transportation and accommodation costs will be reduced by up to ¥8,000 per night per person. Costs will be reduced up to ¥5,000 for accommodation only.

Additionally, people will receive coupons worth ¥3,000 on weekdays and ¥1,000 on weekends to use at restaurants.

The new program may not be available in some parts of the country depending on the COVID-19 situation, as decisions to introduce it will be left entirely to prefectural governments.

In addition to the travel discount program, the central government plans to scrap its daily limit on the number of incoming travelers, reopen borders to individual foreign travelers and allow visa-free travel next month.

Visa waivers will be available for people from around 70 countries and regions who were eligible for visa-free short stays in Japan before the pandemic, a government official said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to announce the easing of border control measures during a trip to New York next week to tout the move to the international community.

Kishida told a meeting of Asian business leaders in Tokyo on Thursday that Japan would soon relax its border control measures even further. “Free and lively human exchanges are the foundations of the economy and society,” he said. …

It is not mentioned whether this reduction would also be available to foreigners traveling to Japan or only to locals under some form of taxpayer relief program.

Here’s how their Go To Travel campaign in summer 2020 worked:

Japan’s confusing ‘Go To Travel’ campaign

I sure hope this time around it would be a little better structured and people could navigate it easier because their first attempt was really a mess and way too much effort was needed to redeem the discounts.

As for the return of the Visa Waiver Program and the end of the cap on international arrivals, I’m sure I can speak for the most part when I say we’re all excited for what’s to be announced next week.

I decided to apply for a JP business visa here in Germany just in case they pull the plug again and end up offering something not exactly up to standard for a painless trip. One of my business partners in Japan was able to get me an invitation certificate through the ERFS database, and there are no visa fees for German citizens, so stopping by the consulate in Dusseldorf was a easy thing to do. I should collect my passport next week, then return to Asia after a month-long break.

Conclusion

The Japanese government is currently considering renewing a domestic travel discount campaign that would offer eligible travelers discounts on public transportation and accommodation up to ¥8,000 per night per person, plus additional discounts of ¥4,000 for restaurants.

No details have yet been released, and we will be following any announcements the government makes in the coming weeks regarding the reopening of Japan to foreign individual travelers as well as the domestic travel campaign. Hopefully something substantial and useful will be announced soon.

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