COVID-19 Impacts on Travel and Hotels - Japan
Canceled bookings, suspended services, and unconventional plans are some impacts in the travel and hotel industry in Japan as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite these, the travel industry is expected to rebound quickly after the pandemic.
- Due to the "tightening border controls and social distancing efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic limiting nonessential travel," hotels in Japan faced a sharp fall in bookings.
- One example of this is Homeikan, "an operator of traditional Japanese-style inns in the Hongo district of Tokyo." Homeikan lost about 30% of its March bookings as nearly all group reservations have been canceled.
- The Corona Hotel in Osaka has also experienced canceled bookings. The hotel usually has 80-90% occupancy at this time of the year as several schools would normally book for their end-of-year school trips. But these bookings have been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and now the hotel hovers at 30-40%.
- Also, in Kyoto, the loss of foreign visitors is " threatening the very survival of traditional Japanese ryokans, or family-run inns." According to Momoka Matsui, "a fourth-generation landlady of a ryokan near the famed Nishiki market," all the large groups that made their reservations a year in advance "had canceled or delayed trips due to the virus."
- In Shizuoka, where Mt. Fuji is, "about 90,000 people, mostly Chinese, have canceled hotel and ryokan inn bookings for the first three months of this year." According to the local tourism association, "Chinese account for as much as 70% of foreign tourists."
- Several cruise ship operators "have suspended services since infections were found among passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Yokohama."
- As the number of countries that implemented travel restrictions increased, "cruise service cancellations have also increased." To date, more than 400 cruise ship visits have been canceled at Japan's ports due to the COVID-19 outbreak. These cancellations "could result in the loss of more than ¥10 billion ($90 million) to local economies."
- Since airlines and governments have suspended unnecessary travel, Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) said that "it would cut 1,468 domestic flights between March 20 and March 28 stemming from lower demand because sporting and cultural events had been suspended in Japan." As a result of this, the stock prices of Japan’s ANA Holdings Inc and JAL "closed 7.6% and 13% lower respectively."
- To cope with the sharp fall in bookings, hotels in Japan "have been offering unconventional plans to attract tourists." Homeikan hotel thought of an unconventional plan that became an instant sensation. It gave an offer that's designed "to make the guest feel like great authors of times past."
- This Homeikan deal, "priced at about ¥8,000 per night," allows guests to do their work or just be alone while "hotel staff, behaving like publishing house editors, come and check on how they are doing." With this deal, guests are not allowed "to leave the inn unless an emergency occurs." This became successful as "bookings for March sold out within hours, so the operator is considering offering the plan again in April."
- Also, the operator of the Tokyo Daichi Hotel Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture "dedicated two floors for use by high school students unable to study at home during school closures — at no charge." Around 160 students came to the hotel to study since March 5. Aside from this, "the operator will also enable residents to use the hotel’s restaurant after hours as a coworking space."
On 'revenge spending'
- A research survey conducted by Kantar China Insights shows that 45% of respondents who have had to cancel travel plans due to the pandemic said that travel is an activity that they are itching to do. Respondents ranked travel "as number 2 on their list of activities to immediately resume after the epidemic passed."
- With this, the travel industry is expected to rebound quickly. This is also "reflected in the after-effects of past outbreaks that came back even more favorably for the travel and hospitality industry."