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Go To Travel – A Brief History
On July 10, 2020, the Japanese government announced the launch of their “Go To Travel” campaign to start on July 22 and run until March 2021, or until government funds have been entirely spent.
Due to the global pandemic, Japan’s tourism industry has been hit hard. Data from April reported only 2,900 foreigners traveled to Japan, down 99.9% from 2019.
As infections remained low May and June, government officials began working out a plan to help boost Japan’s suffering economy by promoting domestic travel within the country.
However, by the time the “Go To Travel” promotion was officially announced, Japan was in the midst of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections, centered around Tokyo, with 430 infections on July 10th alone.
Amid the growing concern that the travel campaign would further increase coronavirus cases, Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba announced travel to and from Tokyo would be excluded, at least until the rate of infections slowed down. The campaign would otherwise continue as planned.
While the central government has allocated a whopping ¥1.7 trillion to the stimulus program, many have expressed their concerns.
Local government officials worry an influx of travellers could spike infections and put stress on their hospitals. Others have mentioned the issue of typhoon season and the possibility of having to evacuate residents, especially the elderly, in a time when infections are breaking out.
Despite still-rising infections across Japan and the continuing debate of whether to further modify, postpone, or even just cancel the Go To Travel campaign, it's currently still a green light.
Now that you know the risks, let’s talk about what Go To Travel entails
Travelers can receive up to 50% discounts on transportation, accommodation, shopping, etc., all across Japan (except for Tokyo as we mentioned).
The discounts are available when booked through Japanese travel agencies like Nippon Travel Agency, and JTB. In addition, some hotels and ryokans will offer their own “Go To Travel” discounts.
Since July 22, those who book a trip will receive a 35% discount on travel expenses. And from September 1, an extra 15% discount will be offered in the form of vouchers for shopping, restaurants, etc., at local destinations.
Up to half the cost will be discounted, limited to 20,000 yen per person per night, or 10,000 yen for a single-day trip.
There are no limits on the number of nights or different trips throughout the duration of the campaign.
When paired with the half-price JR East shinkansen tickets, this could amount to quite substantial savings on a trip. On the other hand, many alternatives to traditional travel agencies like Airbnb or Agoda already offer significant discounts.
With the various concerns being voiced about travelling now, if you do decide to take advantage of the discounts, be sure to follow common health guidelines to prevent being infected or spreading the virus to others.