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Foreign guests at 55 Kyoto hotels down 99.9% in May as coronavirus takes toll

A parking area near Kyoto's Kiyomizu Temple is seen virtually empty during the "Golden Week" holiday period with hardly any tourists around, on April 25, 2020, in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)

KYOTO -- Fifty-five hotels in Japan's ancient capital Kyoto with a total capacity of 11,823 rooms saw only 183 foreign guests in May, a drop of around 99.9% from last year, a report issued by the Kyoto City Tourism Association for the month showed.

In the same month in 2019, the hotels, accounting for approximately 40% of the western Japan city's accommodation facilities, welcomed around 290,000 visitors. The figure for May represents a fall of more than 80% compared with April data. Many foreign visitors who had been in Japan for a long time, unable to return to their countries, have since left the country, many on chartered and relief flights, while the number of new arrivals has practically dropped to zero amid the novel coronavirus pandemic -- factors that have driven down hotel occupancy.

The total number of Japanese guests at the facilities in May marked a 94.7% decline compared with the same month last year. A state of emergency that was in place due to the spread of the coronavirus was lifted in the prefecture on May 21, and tourist facilities and temples once again resumed their operations and began welcoming visitors, but a prolonged government request for people to refrain from traveling between prefectures dealt a blow to tourism.

Including foreign visitors, the overall number of people staying in at the facilities in May stood at 15,780, down 97.3% from 2019. It was the fourth month in a row for the facilities to record a record low number of visitors since statistics were first collected in 2014.

The overall occupancy rate reached 6.5%, down 76.6 percentage points from the previous year. Sales at four department stores in the prefecture, meanwhile, marked a 98.5% decline, their biggest recorded drop, as they operated for only between one week and 10 days during the period.

Around 120 hotels in the city with 100 or more rooms were also surveyed each week on whether or not they were temporarily closed. The proportion of these facilities that were temporarily closed peaked at 44.2% on May 25. On June 29, the figure had fallen to 21.8% and it was expected to drop further to 10.1% on July 13, indicating that more hotels are opening their doors.

The Kyoto City Tourism Association, however, gave a bleak outlook, commenting, "When it comes to the spread of infections, we can't be optimistic, and as things stand, there are still no prospects of us seeing inbound demand. We hope to see an increase in demand from the Kansai region (in western Japan) and other areas of the country."

(Japanese original by Kenji Kagura, Kyoto Bureau)

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