Trouble over online travel reservations centered on cancelations surges in Japan

The area in front of Kaminarimon gate is crowded with tourists as seen in Tokyo’s Taito Ward in this April 2023 file photo. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

TOKYO — While many people in Japan may be considering domestic or overseas trips for the autumn leisure season and the year-end and New Year’s holidays, there has apparently been a sharp increase in the number of problems related to online reservations for accommodations and airline tickets. What kind of consultations has the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan received?

The number of travelers has been on the rise as the Japanese government proceeds with its “living with the coronavirus” policy, which shifts the focus to maintaining socioeconomic activities from virus-related restrictions. The new strategy lifted activity limitations in May this year as the legal status of COVID-19 was downgraded to category 5 under the Japanese infectious disease control law, the same level as seasonal influenza. In tandem with this trend, there have been many problems related to travel reservations online.

According to the consumer affairs center, there were 8,647 consultations over travel-related problems in fiscal 2022. Of these, 4,488 — more than half — were related to online reservations. This represents a nearly two-fold increase from the 2,306 cases in fiscal 2021 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of consultations regarding online reservations has also been increasing since April of this year, reaching 1,125 at the end of July, up from 840 at the same time last year.

The inquiries included, for example, a case in which a customer canceled early for personal reasons but ended up paying a fee because they had overlooked a condition such as a “100% cancelation fee.”

In another case, a consumer booked both airline tickets and accommodation at the same time, one of which could be canceled free of charge but the other incurred a cancelation fee. There was also a case of a reservation made via an overseas online travel agency that subsequently developed into trouble and communication did not go smoothly when the customer tried to request a refund.

The center is calling for caution, such as by thoroughly checking the cancelation policy and contact information, as well as by saving a screenshot of the reservation status.

(Japanese original by Ayami Abe, Lifestyle, Science & Environment News Department)


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