Discovering Japan: Go-To-Travel Campaign

Covid has brought on a lot of impact onto the world and everyday lives. I never imagined life would be like that.

In an effort to save the tourism and economic recovery here in Japan, the “Go-To-Travel Campaign” was introduced in late July.

The campaign is confusing to many, even myself, but I’ll run through some important factors in deciding if the Go-To-Travel campaign is an ideal option for many.

Before we begin, I would like to state that throughout the campaign period, revisions and updates to this post is to be expected.

Well, shall we? 

This campaign as mentioned, is a stimuli to spur domestic travel in Japan. With that in mind, the campaign is solely for domestic travels within Japan. An initiative that started on July 22, 2020 that received critiques especially during the spike in Covid numbers in Tokyo, causing the city to be excluded from this campaign.

The discounts available from this campaign is up to a maximum of ¥20,000 per night, per person, for overnight trips and ¥10,000 for day trips. Simpler terms: a 35% discount or the ¥20,000//¥10,000 discount for whichever is lower.

There are however, few ways to go about with such a discount offer:

Booking through an agency

When the campaign was first introduced, websites such as booking.com were not a part of it yet until mid August. That said, bookings had to go through an agency body such as JTB Travel or Rakuten. Even so, booking.com’s list does not include all under the campaign. Only eligible ones with the Go-To banner would be included in the 35% discount.

Booking through individual websites

Booking through an agency along with different websites for transportation is another option.

Here's the catch 22:

Not all inclusive

As mentioned above, not all accommodations across Japan are part of the campaign. Be sure to check ’em out before proceeding with individual bookings.

So, the real question comes:

Should one make their plans through an agency or individual websites, in pertaining such a hard to miss discount?

Travel agency

This step is much more convenient as the whole plan and itinerary is done in one shot, through the agency. Honestly, price comparison – not too far off from booking each item separately from different websites (individually).

Especially if you are interested in staying at a ryokan (Japanese traditional guest house). Ryokans are typically very expensive (much more expensive than a hotel), but booking through an agency offers a lot of ryokan choices, especially the ones you never thought of visiting.

Through some travel agencies, one cannot simply just book for the transport individually under the campaign. It’s either only accommodation or both accommodation and transport especially for travel agents such as JTB or JR.

The catch is the cancellation policy.

All free things come at a price. However, for the cheap combination, the cancellation policy is rather hefty, and penalty is charged onto the original price excluding the discount from the campaign.

Individual bookings

Likewise, plans can be booked through separate websites instead of all in all. Eki-net that runs the JR shinkansen internet service is currently offering 50% off train rides from 20th August till 31st March 2021, which is a great saver.

The cancellation policy is much more laxed compared to booking through a travel agent, however, the prices might slightly be higher compared to an agency. That said, it is also a risk that the accommodation may not be under the campaign for now, but will be in the future (maybe sometime closer to the travel date, making one go “Ah man”)

For example, booking an accomodation through booking.com and transportation through eki-net may or may not be cheaper, but it comes at an easier cancellation rate.

The catch is the risk of inclusion under the campaign.

Personally,

I missed out a lot through booking with an agency.

Individual websites started having different promotions along with the inclusion under this campaign a lot later than the launch date.

Individual bookings are a lot more flexible, however, through my experiences, Eki-net gave me a lot of trouble with signing in and modifying reservations as the website, is incredibly, unstable. Even cancellation was unstable through the net, and had to be done by call.

Really troublesome, in my opinion.

I’ll end with this:

If you have a solid fixed plan, going with an agency will be at a lesser risk. But if you are aiming for a flexible plan, going for individual bookings is still a safety net. Depending on what kind of accommodations you are looking for, each medium has its own advantage.

Hope it helps.

Happy traveling.

Ichiyen