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Travel firms slash 'Go To Travel' max discount by up to 75% after Tokyo joins campaign

A poster for the "Go To Travel" campaign is seen at a travel company in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 1, 2020. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

TOKYO -- Major hotel booking sites offering discounts as part of the Japanese government's "Go To Travel" tourism promotion campaign are reducing the maximum limit of the spending they'll cover for holidaymakers by as much as 75%.

    Since Tokyo became a part of the scheme in October, usage has increased drastically, and it appears that a drying-up of budgeted funds distributed to the companies by the central government is behind the smaller discounts.

    The booking sites that have reduced their offers are Jalan, and Yahoo Travel. Until recently, travelers could expect a maximum discount of 14,000 yen (about $133), but bookings from Oct. 10 now have an upper limit of just 3,500 yen (some $33) discounted. The change in conditions was announced simultaneously on Oct. 9 on the travel companies' websites.

    For the Go To Travel campaign's budget, the central government provided funds to the travel agencies based on their sales in the previous financial year. A PR representative at Yahoo Travel said, "When we reviewed the amount of the budget assigned to us, we decided that if we reduced the discount more people would be able to make use of the service. We're not running low on budgeted funds, but the possibility of it did arise."

    But an official at the bureau for the Go To Travel campaign told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The 14,000-yen discount is the maximum amount, so there's no issue in lowering the discount."

    The total budget for the Go To Travel campaign is around 1.3 trillion yen (some $12.3 billion). According to preliminary figures at the Japan Tourism Agency, from the day the campaign began on July 22 until Sept. 15, only around 73.5 billion yen (about $697 million) has been used to fund discounts. An individual connected with an accommodation bookings site told the Mainichi Shimbun, "This means that if there wasn't a reduction in the discount it would cause a bad situation. There is a possibility of us soon returning to the previous highest-discount level (if there is a top-up to the budget)."

    (Japanese original by Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Business News Department)

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