Government subsidized Japan ski holidays? Maybe!

Get a 50% subsidized Japan ski holiday? Sounds too good to be true!

UPDATE: Well maybe it is just that, too good to be true? JNTO in Japan are reportedly saying it only applies to Japanese taking domestic holidays – but if you have a Japanese friend book it will they be asking for passports, or paying your friend’s discounts and not yours? We have been (and continue to) request further clarity. At the end of the day, many governments are promising funds and schemes with not much detail.

UPDATE 2: The scheme so far has only been applicable to Japanese and foreigners resident in Japan with a gaikkoku toroku shomei (or ‘Gaijin Card’ as it’s popularly known)

The original feature:

But maybe you can with the new government stimulus package.

And no, we don’t mean the Australian government doing something radical with the $60 billion dollars in spare stimulus funds they discovered doing their sums again. That would be nice, but a bit of a hard sell to non-skiing voters you would think (hey, we’d vote for it!).

Shredding Japow in Appi would be even more attractive with subsidized Japan ski holiday
Awesome Appi had zero COVID-19 in 2019-2020 season, we’d go back in a flash .. or even quicker with a discount coupon! © Appi

We mean the Japanese government’s mega ¥1.7 trillion (around $AUD 24 billion) funding program to revive tourism in Japan announced by Hiroshi Tabata, chief of the Japan Tourism Agency, at a news conference last week. He mentioned the option of subsidising the domestic travel arrangements of international travellers by up to 50% of the cost of their journeys.

After being on a roll for years, with the Tokyo Olympics set to be the icing on the cake this summer, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on international travel to Japan. Inbound tourism dropped 99.9% year on year for April 2020 versus April 2019.

Note that’s not the virus wreaking havoc within Japan. The country has probably the best record of any major nation in tackling the virus, certainly the best for the G-7. The death toll per million in Japan is just 6, versus 300 in the USA, and 542 in the UK. In raw numbers the difference becomes more stark: 100,000 in the USA versus just 820 in Japan. In Australia it’s 4 per million, 102 total by comparison. World figures are updated here daily.

Who votes for a 50% discount on their next Japow mission? It’s unanimous! © Carmen Price

And all that achieved without any total shutdown of the economy. States of emergency have been applied in various prefectures (their equivalent of states/territories) currently in place in just 5 remaining ones out of the total of 47, with all expected to be lifted by next Monday.

But after initial reluctance to shut down inbound travel Japan did, closing it off virtually completely through April.

Our Snowboard Ed Peter Wunder smashing Rusutsu a few years back; the resort operated normally © Owain Price

On the ski front ski resorts mostly stayed open for virtually the whole normal season.

In an indication that fears of COVID-19 ski related outbreaks are overdone in Australia, there were no major problems associated with their ski resorts continuing to run. There were a few cases in Hokkaido traced to foreign visitors, but far less than in Colorado (remember our “Aspen cluster?”). With no foreigners coming to ski at home, and very limited community transmission, chances of major outbreaks from skiing downunder are very low, so it’s very welcome news that our season is go – or almost.

Details on the subsidy scheme are limited, but potentially it would apply to domestic travel across Japan, including snow trips. Or at least key components of them. The suggested model is 50% discount coupons for travel products purchased through elegible agents. Plans are to extend these to souvenir shops and restaurants in tourist areas as well.

The scheme is set to launch as soon as conditions allow, with late July tipped as the likely start date.

Another clean line at Appi – COVID-19 free season 2019-2020 © Owain Price

For anyone worried about COVID-19 and their next Japow mission ski trip we recommend Iwate Prefecture in northern Honshu.

Iwate is the second most sparsely populated prefecture in Japan (after Hokkaido – you knew that!), which has still yet to record a single case of the virus.

Choose from their powder star Appi, offering a fantastic range of ski in/ski out accommodation at the base, nearby still unknown Hachimantai Shimokura and it’s upmarket deluxe neighbour Hachimantai Panorama, a classic Prince Resort at Shizukuishi or the true “King of Powder”, Geto Kogen

Stay tuned to Snow Action for updates – on the discount coupons and generally for J-land.

Logically Japan would rank right after Taiwan and New Zealand in terms of Australia re-establishing mutually beneficial and low risk international travel so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for action on the flights front.

In Europe – which has had some disastrous impacts from the virus – countries like Greece (which did exceptionally well controlling it) and Spain (which ranks with the UK in Europe for not controlling it) are opening up for international summer tourism from July.

Geto another COVID-19 free 2019-2020 pow destination in Iwate © Owain Price