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Sunday 16 October 2022

Oops. We've already spent the money!

The Japanese Government's plan to boost domestic tourism post-Covid has hit a major snag. 

The rollout of a new travel subsidy program is floundering, with some travel-related firms having already spent their allocated funds, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japan Tourism Agency is asking participating businesses across the country to review their budgets while also considering increasing funding for the scheme, known as the "National Travel Discount".

Launched this week, on the same day Covid-19 border controls were eased for international arrivals, the program provides the equivalent of up to 11,000 yen (just under $120) in discounts and coupons per traveller per day. 

The money can be used for meals, shopping and accommodation expenses.

The scheme is being implemented through use of state funds. 

Budgets have been allocated to all 47 of Japan's prefectures, with the amount each receives based on criteria such as local accommodation figures. 

The prefectural governments then redistribute the funds between local businesses such as travel agencies and hotels to sell their products and services within the scope of the scheme.

Authorities of north-eastern Yamagata Prefecture had planned to use the funds they were granted over three months from October through December, but have since decided to divert some of their November budget to this month after local businesses spent all of the government's initial allocated subsidy.

"In some cases, too much funding has been given to local businesses, while estimates for others have fallen short," one government source said, requesting that prefectures redistribute their quota based on past tourism data.

Meanwhile, high consumer interest in the scheme has overwhelmed some participating travel agencies.

Seanuts Co, which manages accommodation bookings for around 5,100 hotels and other facilities, said that high traffic caused by a large number of hits to its website led to a system malfunction, leaving customers unable to book, while also possibly cancelling existing reservations.


The new program was initially planned to be introduced in July but was postponed due to Japan's 's seventh wave of coronavirus infections.

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