Japan's tourism industry adapts to the new normal

NHK -- Jun 03
Japan's tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. As people adjust to a new normal in daily life, tourism officials are also trying to come up with a new normal for vacations.

Achi village in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, is famous for its hot springs and as a prime spot for star-gazing.

Surrounded by the mountains of the Southern Alps, the village is protected from urban light pollution.

But coronavirus prevention measures have kept many visitors from the Tokyo metropolitan area away.

Now, village officials have decided to attract people living more locally.

They are offering residents of Nagano Prefecture a discount of nearly 50 dollars per night.

One visitor from nearby said she wanted to contribute to the local tourism industry. "I think it's a good chance to experience the village's appeal."

"Attracting local residents also has an advantage in terms of containing the coronavirus," said Japan Research Institute researcher Kousaka Akiko. "Even if a group infection occurs, it will be easier to track the route as many of them live in the prefecture."

Meanwhile, overseas tours are almost impossible due to the travel restrictions in many countries. So instead, major Japanese travel agency H.I.S. has come up with the idea of offering virtual tours.

Customers select their destinations and local guides talk them through the sights online.

The tours are either free or cost up to about 10 dollars. H.I.S. officials say more than 4,000 people joined its online tours in the past month.

"Some customers say they feel like they are actually there, or they really want to visit the place," said H.I.S. official Uemura Tomoko. "We will study how to make our products as safe as possible and prepare for the full resumption of overseas travel."

Company officials say they want to make online tour packages major product lines for this summer.