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Another extremely popular travel destination wants to lure visitors back by subsidizing their trips post-lockdown. After the news that many countries—where the pandemic is going better than here in Canada—plan on reopening to travelers this summer, this is another reason to jump on the “cautiously-optimistic about future travel” train if you haven’t yet.

Japan has set aside ¥1.35 trillion (C$17 billion) to cover half of travelers’ expenses, to get people back to Japan more quickly.

This was just announced, so first of all, let’s tell you right away that the specifics and registration process are not available just yet.

While this is a lot of money, it might run dry very quickly, as I would expect many people will want to take advantage of this (I sure want to).

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Japan’s plan to cover travel expenses

A few weeks ago, we told you about the Southern Italian island of Sicily’s plan to pay for part of your trip (half of your flights, a third of your hotel, and offering free attractions).

You can read all the details in that initial post, but in short, initiatives like that one (and Japan’s) make a lot of sense. Tourism is so important to the economy, and savvy travelers are price-sensitive.

Every country will be competing to attract travelers who, for the most part, won’t have more time off to travel (and there will be a lot less of them for a while). So if a country offers a significant discount, it goes to the top of the list of destinations for the first post-lockdown trip.

The Japan Times reports that the C$17 billion budget could be made available to travelers as soon as July “if novel coronavirus infections subside soon”.

Unsurprisingly, international travelers were down 99.9% in Japan in April, so they want to make sure to be travelers’ first choice post-lockdown. By the way, I’ve recently shared a few initial thoughts on when we can start traveling again so I won’t get into that again here.

Honestly, that’s about all we know about Japan’s plan: the money is meant to cover half of travelers’ expenses. No more details have been published, but surely they won’t just give out blank cheques.


Conditions to look out for

Of course, this sounds great and very well might be just as great as it sounds.

But just like we said for Sicily, there will obviously be conditions that will determine if this is really worth changing your destination to Japan. Keep in mind that if you were to fly just a bit further to Southeast Asia, the cost of living would literally be cut in more than half and so would your travel budget.

The devil is in the detail:

  • will you have to book specific airlines/hotels that are much more expensive than others, negating the discount?
  • will you need to book full packages or organized tours, which are always more expensive than booking it separately on your own?

We’ll be watching out for more news on your behalf.

By the way, we still haven’t gotten any more details about Sicily either, just to reassure you that you haven’t missed anything. If you sign up for the free alerts for this Japan deal, we’ll also send you news about Sicily.


3 reasons why this is even more promising than Sicily

Nevertheless, this is even more promising than Sicily (and not just because I want to visit Japan 1,000 times more than I want to visit Italy personally).


1. The budget is huge

The budget is simply massive. C$17 billion is a lot of money. It’s worth mentioning that tourism was one of the only growing sectors of Japan’s economy before the crisis, so that could explain why they want to invest this much.

As a comparison, Sicily’s budget for their own initiative is just C$75 million, or 227 times less. It’s a whole country compared to just an island, of course, but my point is: the odds of you being able to snag some of the money seem objectively a lot higher in Japan.

Mount Fuji (photo credit: David Edelstein)


2. More valuable discounts

Finally, Japan in general is a more expensive destination (that’s actually why it’s not one of the 60 countries I’ve been to, as a budget traveler who wants to save money to travel more).

So getting half off your travel expenses is likely worth more in Japan than in Sicily, depending on the details of the promotion of course.


3. Setting a precedent

Finally, this is especially great news because it’s setting a precedent. Japan is a major destination. And most importantly, people might have returned there first even without the subsidy, because it is a country that is really popular, and where hygiene and cleanliness are so important.

Sicily is just a small island with a small budget. Japan can be a trendsetter.

When there’s competition, it’s good for consumers. It’s true for everything. Ultra low-cost carriers competing for fliers make regular airlines lower their prices. Banks compete for clients and give you 8.5 free nights for getting a card. Countries are no different.

Who knows? Maybe many countries will feel the need to compete and maybe more of them will pay us to visit. That is so encouraging for us travelers, quite a change from the last months. But of course, this could also turn out to be the only country to do this. To be continued.

Whether the same competition between airlines to get fliers back into planes happens is another hot topic, we’ll cover this soon.

As a side note, this week, Air Canada’s CFO said that he hopes there are no price wars post-lockdown according to a French-language story in La Presse. Yes, Air Canada wants to keep high fares. In similarly surprising news: water is wet. He also said they want more taxpayer money, another hard-to-believe fact.

Joking aside, I certainly won’t defend them for illegally refusing refunds (them and others—and we’ll soon tell you how you can get one in many cases), but I will at least say that as much as I hate that Air Canada has the highest fares… it makes sense for them. That’s their brand positioning and they’ve been successful that way. It sure helps that Canadian travelers are so captive, but I’m veering off-topic.

Just keep your hopes up: it is maybe not as a doom and gloom as many seem to think it is in terms of future airfare prices, sign up for free to read about that soon.

And for what it’s worth, before the coronavirus hit, we were sharing incredibly low-priced deals to Japan (like in the C$400s roundtrip from Montreal and Toronto).


Coronavirus situation in Japan

For those who are interested, despite being very close to the virus’ origin, Japan has dealt with the coronavirus relatively well.

While this might change before it is responsible to travel again or before Japan’s program is implemented, the situation as of today is that Japan has under 2,800 active cases, which is 21 per 1M inhabitants. As a comparison, Canada has 33,000 active cases, which is 895 per 1M inhabitants (or 41 times more).

Hopefully, with the situation getting better in Japan and many other countries, it will be possible to start traveling sooner rather than later.

Flytrippers will be your go-to source of information for everything Canadian travelers need to know to start traveling again, whenever that is for you.

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Japan plans on spending $17 billion to cover half of travelers’ expenses in order to make the country one of the fastest to rebound post-lockdown. That is a lot of money and it’s very encouraging to see that we might see more countries do the same to attract us!

What do you think of Japan’s plan? Tell us in the comments below.


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Featured image: Japan (photo credit: Su San Lee)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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