Published on : Monday, May 3, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Japan’s tourism industry.
Japan was expecting an influx of big-spending foreign travelers in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The sporting extravaganza was postponed for a year; however, it is now slated to be held in July without an attendance of the estimated 1 million overseas spectators.
Domestic travel in Japan has been hammered by successive waves of virus infections that have led to a third state of emergency and a range of restrictive measures adopted by a growing number of cities and prefectures. This has resulted in a huge blow to hotels and travel agencies along with air and ground transportation operators.
Now, with Japan struggling to control a fierce fourth wave with new strains that are more infectious and a slow vaccine rollout that can delay economic recovery for years, tourism, considered to be a pillar of the government’s growth strategy, is wondering when it can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Markets and consumption habits are disrupted in times of crises, but in the long term most of those changes are temporary,” said Hiroshi Kurosu, a research fellow at JTB Tourism Research and Consulting.
“On the other hand, there are trends triggered by a crisis that become mainstream, although in most of those cases the groundwork has been laid before the cataclysmic event,” Kurosu opined.