The Go To Travel campaign launched last July promised to support a huge portion of travel expenses (35% on transportation and accommodation), with an additional 15% support in the form of vouchers that can be used for dining, sightseeing, and shopping. It is aimed to promote domestic travel and boost local businesses in small towns and travel destinations affected by the pandemic.
We booked a trip to Okinawa through one of the affiliated travel agencies. It so happened that my partner was already there for work so my kids and I planned to stay at a different hotel the first night to avail of the campaign, and then move to my partner's room for the remaining three nights to save cost.
We received the promised discount on flights and hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, the front desk issued us ¥16,000 worth of coupons (the extra 15% for 3 people) that expire the very next day. We were surprised. Our return flight was not until 4 days later so we were expecting the coupons to expire then. However, the staff explained that the coupons were tied to the hotel that was booked (not the flight) so they expire when you check out.
We now had the interesting problem of how to spend ¥16,000 in less than 24 hours (we arrived at night). But we also wondered whether tourists who would like to stay in different parts of Okinawa encounter the same problem.
We noticed a pattern: We could not use the coupons in the small restaurants, charming cafes, and quirky little shops in Okinawa. Curiously, they could be used in chain restaurants and cafes, convenience stores, big supermarkets and department stores. Which raises the question, wasn't the purpose of the campaign to help local businesses? Finding establishments to spend the coupons was easy but I would rather spend the coupons in places that need my business the most.