[Update] Sapporo and Osaka have been taken off the Go to Travel campaign temporarily. This takes effect immediately for three weeks. The Japan Times reports that new reservations for these two destinations cannot be made for the time being while trips booked under the Go to Travel deal for this period ‘will be cancelled and reimbursed’.
Japan is seeing a Covid-19 surge right now, with major cities in the country reporting high or record-breaking numbers of daily new coronavirus cases, especially Tokyo, Hokkaido and Osaka. According to Kyodo News, the central government is now preparing to stop the Go to Travel subsidy programme in cities with growing infection rates to help curb the spread of the virus. The decision to suspend the Go to Travel campaign, however, will be left to the prefectural governor, as reported by The Japan Times.
Kyodo News reported that Osaka and Sapporo will be the first cities to stop offering Go to Travel discounts due to the high number of cases. Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki stated on Monday November 23 that he plans to withdraw Sapporo from the nationwide domestic tourism subsidy while seeking compensation for businesses and travellers affected by the suspension. Similarly, Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura has requested that Osaka be removed from the campaign starting Friday November 27.
Japan is considering stopping the travel subsidy by city rather than prefecture to avoid a drastic impact on regional economies. If the above-mentioned suspension was to proceed, pre-booked trips that take place after the suspension might not receive the Go to Travel discount; the government might also shoulder the cancellation fees due to the suspension. However, a final decision has yet to be made. To keep domestic tourism going, however, residents in areas where the suspension is in place may still be able to use the Go to Travel campaign in other regions.
News on the pending suspension of the Go to Travel campaign first surfaced on Saturday November 21. Kyodo News reported that the domestic travel subsidy will be suspended and that any new Go to Travel bookings in areas with rising coronavirus infections are to be put on hold. The central government is also encouraging prefectural governments to consider suspending the Go to Eat campaign as well.
This is a developing story and will be updated when more information is available.