The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Japan’s tourism industry.
The nation was anticipating an influx of big-spending foreign travelers to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The quadrennial sporting extravaganza was postponed for a year, however, and is now slated to be held in July without any of the estimated 1 million overseas spectators in attendance.
Meanwhile, domestic travel has been hammered by wave after wave of virus infections that have led to a third state of emergency and a slew of restrictive measures adopted by a growing number of cities and prefectures, dealing crushing blows to hotels and travel agencies as well as air and ground transportation operators.
Now, with the country scrambling to tame a fierce fourth wave with new strains that are more contagious and a slow vaccine rollout that is likely to delay the recovery of the economy for years, the sector — considered to be a pillar of the government’s growth strategy — is wondering when it can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And when it does, what will the post-pandemic tourism landscape look like?
“Markets and consumption habits are disrupted in times of crises, but in the long term most of those changes are temporary,” says Hiroshi Kurosu, a research fellow at JTB Tourism Research and Consulting…