The impacts of the coronavirus are being painfully felt by hotel and ryokan operators in Shizuoka’s popular hot spring locations. Hotels and onsens that have relied heavily on tour groups from China are now facing either temporary or permanent closure.

With the Chinese government placing a ban on overseas group travel from late January, hotels relying on pre-arranged bookings from Chinese travel agencies have been hit with numerous cancellations. 

In Atami, one hotel has temporarily closed operations from March after receiving over 2600 cancellations. Although the hotel does welcome domestic guests, its reputation for taking on group tours from China has led to cancellations from domestic guests as well.

Another hotel in Atami had been operating at 100% occupancy thanks to accommodation agreements with travel companies in China and Taiwan. The hotel temporarily closed its doors from late January.

A ryokan in Izunokuni City is closing at the end of March after losing all of their bookings for the next two months. The hot spring ryokan was refurbished in April 2019, and soon-after signed an agreement with a Chinese travel agency. They were welcoming Chinese tour groups daily until the travel ban was enforced this January. With 99% of their guests from China, they are no longer able to support operations. 

Even if a hotel temporarily closes, it still incurs high running costs. Hot spring baths and plumbing require ongoing maintenance, while leased equipment such as air-conditioning systems require monthly payments. 

The Izu City Tourism Association is reporting a severe drop in foreign visitors to the popular sights in Shuzenji, Amagi and Toi. There has not been a noticeable change in Japanese tourists that drive from the Kanto region, but domestic bus tours have seen a steep drop in interest as people practice social distancing. 

The Shizuoka Prefecture Tourist Association said there have been 499,974 hotel cancellations across the prefecture as of March 6. 40% of those were from Japanese tourists, with Hamamatsu and Atami cities seeing the biggest impact.

If these conditions continue through to the Golden Week holidays in early May, it may lead to widespread layoffs of workers employed in the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries. 

Source:  The Tokyo Shimbun, March 14, 2020.