Japan’s Go To Travel subsidy program to resume possibly in February

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Japan’s Go To Travel domestic tourism support program may resume in February after being suspended since late last year amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, government sources said Thursday, with the campaign to include mandatory anti-virus measures.

While the number of new and serious COVID-19 cases in the country has fallen sharply recently along with the progress of the vaccination programme, the government believes that it still needs to assess whether oral medications to prevent serious symptoms will be available by the end of the year, The sources said.

The government plans to require people who take advantage of the Go To Travel program to show proof of vaccination or a negative virus test result upon check-in at the accommodation and on other occasions, according to the sources.

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The tourism promotion campaign, which covers 50% of travel costs up to 20,000 yen per person per night, began in July 2020 to support the industry amid the downturn caused by the epidemic, but was suspended last December due to the rapid spread of infection.

Opposition parties have criticized the program as a factor in the resurgence of HIV infections. A total of 87.81 million hotel stays had been made under the campaign by December 28 last year when it was halted, with the government spending 2.7 trillion yen on the scheme.

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Financially devastated by the pandemic, the tourism industry and local governments have been calling for the Go To Travel program to be quickly restarted.

After its suspension, the Japan Tourism Agency backed prefectural governments’ tourism campaigns that promoted residents’ travel within their home prefectures.

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