An advance payment system in Japan aims to help struggling tourism industry-related businesses including accommodations, theatres, hotels, restaurants, etc. The pay-in-advance system in the country has been prevailing in such businesses as accommodations and movie theaters. This has helped them maintain their financial stability amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the system, operators of such facilities can use fees paid in advance as funds to keep their businesses afloat while the guests have the opportunity to use the facilities when their operations are resumed.
Tsuneyoshi Kamada, 50, of Tokyo, who used the advance payment system, said: “I liked traveling but am now unable to do so due to the spread of coronavirus disease. I think the system supports the lodging facilities and I feel satisfied when thinking about my trip in the future.”
He used the “Atoyado” service operated by travel-related IT company Sagojo Inc. and other entities. Under the Atoyado system, users first pay lodging fees and donations to accommodation facilities. The operators of these facilities then immediately receive about half of the money paid so it can be used as operating and other expenses for the time being. Guests, for their part, are allowed to use the facilities at their convenience. The operators will receive the remaining amount of money when their facilities are used.
An official in charge of the Atoyado service at Takezono Ryokan said, “We were thrilled to know that there were people even during the pandemic who were willing to support us financially.”
Sagojo president Takuya Shin said, “Our service can be used not only by the people who have anxiety about coronavirus but also by those who cannot secure time for traveling immediately.”
Currently, about 10 lodging facilities are registered with the Atoyado service system. However, Sagojo plans to increase the number of registered accommodations in a collaborative effort with municipal governments and other organizations.
In the case of the Ojikajima of Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, lodging at traditional Japanese-style houses, which is a tourist attraction on the island, and other services are suspended temporarily. The town sells advance payment tickets called “Kondo Ojika ni Iku Ken” to help support lodging and other facilities. The money earned through ticket sales is transferred to operators of such facilities on the island. Tickets are valid for six months after their issuance.
An official in charge said: “We have received many positive responses saying that I’ll visit [the island] if the situation calms down.’ It is ideal if the advance payment system can support us in the form of a future promise.”
Moves to support restaurants in a similar manner have been prevailing, too.
People can buy meal tickets that are usable up to six months by using a smartphone app called “Gochimeshi” by an IT firm Gigi Inc. based in Fukuoka City.
Shop operators are not charged a registration fee as registration commissions are being shouldered for a limited period by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a major beer and whiskey maker. The money paid by users is transferred to the registered shops in full. Currently, there are about 9,000 registered shops.
Furthermore, cases have increased in which local governments and other organizations sell meal tickets attached to special gifts. It is also essential to confirm the content of the service carefully.
Tomoki Inoue, an analyst of NLI Research Institute, said: “Shop operators can feel customers’ desire for continued operation and this amounts to assistance that not only involves money. The shops should confirm before they use the ticket system such things as the guarantee system in times of bankruptcy and whether paid money is transferred to them.”