Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to continue with preparations to develop Japan’s first integrated resorts, rejecting calls on Thursday for plans to be put on hold while the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing opposition questions at the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Abe said, “IRs have certainly been impacted by COVID-19 [but] we will properly carry out necessary preparations, taking into consideration any new issues that may arise.”
Notably, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the man in charge of promoting Japan as a tourist destination, stated, “There will be no changes to the schedule.”
This was in response to a comment from Representative Shu Watanabe of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan in which he stated, “There are people asking why a casino in the middle of the COVID-19 [pandemic]. Why make a casino the pillar of a growth strategy? The casino project should be put on hold and the budget of the Casino Management Committee and the 100 staff members should be diverted to the fight against coronavirus.”
Abe added, “After the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry will recover. IRs will provide a boost in becoming an advanced tourist destination.”
While the Abe government is sticking to its guns on the timeline to receive bids from prefectures and cities between January and June 2021, it has previously revealed that announcement of its Basic Policy on IRs – orginally scheduled for January of this year – won’t take place until “after July.”
The Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Kazuyoshi Akaba, reasserted on Thursday that the opening date for Japan’s first IRs is “expected for the second half of this decade.”