TOKYO -- Japanese companies that rely heavily on tourist spending have been hit hard by the growing coronavirus epidemic, with some suspending business entirely, as the infection begins to spread in Japan.
A survey by credit research specialist Tokyo Shoko Research revealed that more than 2,800 Japanese companies, 23% of those surveyed, say their business has suffered due to the coronavirus, while 44%, or 5,401, expect some impact.
The biggest effects so far have come from cancellations or postponements of business trips, supply chain disruptions and sales declines.
On Friday, Sanrio Entertainment, the company behind the beloved Hello Kitty character, announced it will close its popular Tokyo theme park, Sanrio Puroland, from Saturday through March 12. "In order to protect the safety of our employees and customers amid the spread of coronavirus, we have decided to close the theme park temporarily, as it is a place where many people gather," a Sanrio representative said.
The company decided on the three-week shutdown as the risk of coronavirus spreading among customers and employees grows. Sanrio had already taken steps to make transmission less likely, including limiting live shows and allowing employees to wear masks.
Brewer Sapporo Holdings made a similar move Friday, revealing that its subsidiary, Sapporo Beer, will suspend tours at three of its breweries until further notice. The company will also close its Sapporo Beer Museum on the northern island of Hokkaido "due to the increased risk of the new coronavirus infection spreading in Japan," according to the company's website.
Another Hokkaido-based company, Ishiya, which makes Shiroi Koibito ("white sweetheart") cookies popular with Asian tourists, expects visitor numbers to fall as the fear of the coronavirus grows. It has announced production suspensions at two factories for a total of 30 days.
The two plants, located in Sapporo and Kitahiroshima, normally crank out around 1.4 million cookies a day. In an effort to keep the tourists coming, Ishiya will offer free tours of the Shiroi Koibito production lines during the stoppage. Tours usually cost around 600 yen ($5.30) for adults.
The spread of the virus has picked up speed in recent days, with the number of reported infections reaching 94 in Japan, not including the 634 passengers who tested positive for the coronavirus and were quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama. On Friday, there were 23 more confirmed cases, including infections of two government workers.