The oddly named “Go To Travel Campaign” is an attempt by the Japanese government to rejuvenate struggling local economies hit hard by the COVID19 pandemic. The campaign began on July 22nd, entered its second phase on September 1st, and is expected to run until March 15th, 2021. The campaign currently applies to departure cities and destinations throughout Japan with the exception of Tokyo*.
*Update 9/28: As of October 1st, Tokyo will be added to the campaign.
The government has decided to cooperate with selected travel agencies and hotels only in offering discounted prices to travelers. You can find the full list of participating entities here (use Google Translate through Chrome to view the page in relatively understandable English). Some popular travel booking sites among Japanese netizens include Rakuten Travel, Jalan, and Yahoo Travel.
There was some confusion about whether online booking services that are foreign owned would be able to participate in passing along the discounts. Officially, Agoda, Booking.com, and Airbnb are able to pass along discounts on select properties through their booking platforms. However, Expedia and Hotels.com are currently not included in the Go To Travel scheme.
For those who booked travel without receiving a discounted price, there are forms to claim a refund of the discounted portion online or by post. Please see the official website for details. The deadline to submit a claim after the end of the trip is September 14th, 2020.
How Much Can I Save?
From September, when you book a trip through a participating agency or hotel, you should automatically receive a price that is 65% of the original price. There is no need to file additional paperwork (trips booked prior to the start of campaign will require the traveler to submit an additional form). There is an upper limit on how much you can save: ¥10,000 per person for day trips, and ¥20,000 per person per night for overnight trips. Furthermore, you will receive a set of vouchers equivalent to 15% of the total price of the trip (rounded to the nearest thousand yen, limits apply). These vouchers can be used on participating attractions, sightseeing spots, souvenir shops, restaurants, and more (vouchers are worth ¥1000 each and change cannot be made).
Update 9/10: Vouchers will be available from October 1st and distributed by your travel agency/ hotel.
I just want to book train/bus tickets and travel on my own. Can I get the discount?
No, the campaign currently does not offer discounts on transportation only. However, certain travel agencies are offering plans for “transportation plus lodging” or “transportation plus an attraction” at the discounted price.
Is this the cheapest way to travel right now?
The campaign is likely to produce some good deals if you shop around. Always compare prices across at least 2-3 different sites to find the best one.
What are the other “Go To” campaigns?
The other three “Go To” campaigns that have been officially announced are the “Go To Eat” campaign (up to 25% off at participating restaurants), “Go To Event,” and “Go to Shopping Street.” None of these have begun yet, but the “Go To Eat” campaign is rumored to be starting in mid-September. I will update this space when more information is announced.
Note: This article is not sponsored and the opinions expressed are mine alone. When traveling, please be sure to take your temperature prior to departure, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and avoid traveling if you feel unwell or have a body temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius.