In modern times, have we ever seen such adversity, with no sign of a way out? We have run into countless economic crises, like the Oil Shock, the collapse of the Bubble Economy, and the Lehman Shock. But the crisis situation brought on us now by the new Coronavirus is something else entirely, in terms of the scale of the impact spreading around the world, and the uncertainty of the future.
In the Second World War, Japan’s GDP dropped by 40% and its land was reduced to scorched earth. What impact will the “war” on the Coronavirus have? In contrast to the post-war crises to date, this time we might actually be reduced to a “scorched earth” state. But if we look back on our history, it shows us that we have risen from crises before, and we must keep that memory in our hearts.
With the combination of restriction on people’s movements and the fall in inbound travel, the tourism, hotel, and restaurant industries as a whole will fall into major negative growth. Domestic demand is extremely important on the path to market recovery. For example, within the JPY26 trillion value of Japan’s tourism, the inbound segment, while growing, is still no more than JPY5 trillion. The presence of such an enormous domestic tourism market as JPY21 trillion is a major feature of Japan. Once the New Coronavirus problem has subsided, domestic demand will be the first market in which tourism recovers. The sequence will be that domestic demand will return first, and then inbound demand will return as the world as a whole settles down. It is vitally important to strive now to get through this period to that future. It’s difficult to devise countermeasures when we don’t know how long the situation will take to stabilize, but all we can do is look forward with a medium- to long-term perspective, bearing in mind that normality will not return unless we wait for a vaccine or therapy to be developed.
With the government’s demand for self-imposed controls due to the Coronavirus, some restaurants have been obliged to close temporarily, while others are operating on reduced hours. That situation has brought a sudden increase in numbers of restaurants starting takeout and delivery operations. In urban areas there has been a dramatic increase in numbers of delivery staff for Uber Eats and the like.
Delivery services are evolving with the expanding use of smartphones. Until now, “ordering in” has meant picking a meal from a delivery menu, which you already had on hand at your home or workplace, and calling the restaurant directly to place the order. Now, your smartphone will show places nearby which can deliver, and their menus, and you can just order from their website or an app. With services such as Uber Eats, you can use your smartphone to track the situation, from ordering to arrival, which mostly eliminates the stress of waiting for a delivery.
One of the products of this Corona Shock will be further increase in demand for food delivery. With the growth of single-person households and the increasing diffusion of smartphones to older users, deliveries are likely to be used by a wider age range than before. Japan’s dining tables might be transformed by the everyday lineup of restaurant meals and delivery services.
And perhaps deliveries by drone, and “mobile kitchen delivery”, in which your pizza finishes cooking as it is delivered, are not so far in the future.