More than 2 million people have used Japan's travel subsidy campaign since it kicked off in July in a bid to revive a domestic tourism industry hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the country's top government spokesperson said Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there have been 10 reported cases of infections at hotels and other lodging facilities registered with the "Go To Travel" campaign, which was launched on July 22.
Under the program, the government covers part of the cost of domestic tourist trips. However, the campaign was thrown into disarray before it was launched when the government made the decision to exclude travel to and from Tokyo and by residents of the capital in response to a spike in infections.
The exact number of people using the campaign was not released Monday and the government tally does not take into account people taking more than one trip.
Despite concerns that the campaign could lead to a rise in infections, Suga said the government will continue the program, while taking into account the views of health experts as and when needed to prevent the spread of the virus.
"There are 9 million people working in the tourism (industry) and we can say that (the industry) is dying," he told a press conference.
According to the government, 16,703, or only about half of the eligible lodging operators, have registered with the program as of Thursday, with some of them shying away from registration due to the complex process to claim benefits and the problems of informing travel associations and other parties of the number of guests they have received.
With many small- and medium-sized lodging operators opting not to register, the Japan Tourism Agency has extended its deadline, originally set for Friday.
Under the 1.35 trillion yen ($12.7 billion) tourism push, the government will eventually subsidize up to half of a person's travel expenses, including accommodation and transport fees. Initially, it provides discounts worth 35 percent of total costs.
The remaining 15 percent will be covered by coupons to be issued after September for food, shopping and other travel activities offered at destinations.