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Friday, March 20, 2009

Gold rush starts for stimulus pay

Travel agents, governments, golf courses all trying to get a piece of the cash handout pie


Staff writer

Businesses nationwide are rolling out special campaigns to take advantage of the extra cash soon to be circulating when hundreds of municipalities start handing out cash to their residents under Prime Minister Taro Aso's economic stimulus plan.

News photo
Piece of the pie: A special discount campaign aimed at cashing in on stimulus payments is pitched on the Web site of Nippon Travel Agency on Tuesday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Even cash-strapped cities are holding out a beggar's cup, hoping that recipients who don't feel the need to spend their ¥12,000 handout might be willing to donate it.

Nippon Travel Agency Co. is offering a variety of travel packages, including overnight stays at hot springs resorts, for ¥12,000 a head.

Similarly, JAL Tours Co. has online travel packages for ¥12,000 for April-May departures, excluding the Golden Week holidays, that include round-trip airfare, overnight stay and meals.

Rival JTB Corp. will start selling travel packages departing from the Tokyo metropolitan area for just ¥12,000 from March 27.

"Many customers have postponed trips since the economy deteriorated," said Ayumi Takamiya, spokeswoman for Nippon Travel Agency. "We've waited a long time for the cash handouts to be issued. We definitely hope they will stimulate travel demand and prompt families and friends to go on a trip."

The discounts are available only through the company's Web site and for weekday departures from April 1.

At ¥6,000 per dinner set, dinner for two at the Chinese restaurant at Rihga Royal Hotel Tokyo nicely matches the amount of the cash handout. The hotel said the set would normally cost around ¥10,000.

"We have been saying that it's the best chance to increase people's consumption," hotel official Naoko Ito said. "We hope many people, even those who don't normally come to our hotel, will take advantage of the price."

Golf course operator Resort Solution Co. has attracted a lot of public and media attention with its various ¥12,000 packages that include meals, souvenirs and accommodations in addition to greens fees, company spokesman Hiroshi Motomura said, adding, "We hope people invite their friends to visit us when they receive" the cash handouts.

Meanwhile, Kawasaki is calling on citizens to donate their handouts to the city. "Some people will decline" to receive the cash handout, noted city official Shuichi Ozawa. "We would be grateful if they considered a donation as a means of stimulating consumption."

Takahide Kiuchi, chief economist at Nomura Securities Co., expects the government's new measure to raise the nation's gross domestic product by slightly less than 0.2 point for the year.

"(Cash handouts) certainly can help buoy the economy in the short term," Kiuchi said. "This will have the effect of stabilizing the economy somewhat."



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