CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Jan. 25, 2020) – For more than 38 years, Zama ITT has offered travel services here that range from bus tickets to complete international packages. Due to COVID-19 travel disruptions, however, the office is closing at the end of the day Jan. 29.
Lawrence Clements, Zama ITT liaison officer, said that because almost no one is traveling, the business receives few customers.
“Last week, this week, maybe we had one or two people,” said Clements, who has worked at the office for about 35 years.
The company that owns Zama ITT, the Tokyo-based Millesimes Inc., is interested in bidding on future contracts for travel services with Camp Zama’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation when travel conditions improve, Clements said.
In a statement, Camp Zama’s FMWR said that COVID-19 has ravaged the travel industry throughout the world, and Zama ITT officials made the difficult decision not to renew their contract. As people across the world receive the vaccine for COVID-19 and life returns to normal, FMWR hopes to offer the services again.
“We at Camp Zama Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation would like to thank the entire Zama ITT team for their professionalism and excellent customer service during their tenure here at Camp Zama,” the statement read.
Likewise, the office’s three employees, who have a combined experience of more than 56 years there, said they want to thank the customers they have enjoyed helping over the years.
“Everybody is so friendly and we have very good customers here,” said Yuko Inoue, operations officer, who has worked at the office for 19 years. “We have a good time with the people here.”
Longtime customers said the announcement saddened them.
Gaye Perera, a teacher at Zama Middle High School for 33 years until her retirement in 2020, said the Zama ITT closure “is the end of an era, for sure.”
Clements worked in the office when Perera arrived at Camp Zama in 1987, and it is likely people will not realize how valuable he and other staff members have been until they are gone, Perera said.
“The greatest advantage to using ITT was planning multi-stop trips,” Perera said. “It was nice to be able to walk in, tell a rep the places you wanted to stop, and have a great itinerary based on your travel plans. [I took] amazing trips to Nepal, Borneo, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bali [and] Tahiti; you could tell the staff where you wanted to go, and they would take care of it.”
Carmen Middleton, meanwhile, a teacher at Zama Middle High School, said she relied on Zama ITT for trips that required a full-guided tour.
“For eight years the crew at ITT has helped me see the world,” Middleton said. “They booked me the best possible flights, always remembering my seat preference. They never let me down with hotels; they always took care of me.”
Middleton said it is too bad the new, young teachers who come to Camp Zama might not have the support she had to see places in Asia.
“What makes me sad about their closure is the thought of how different my years here would have been without their help—the places I may not have visited and the experiences I may not have had,” Middleton said.
In addition, when Zama ITT posted on the office’s Facebook page that they were closing, a long list of lamentations soon appeared.
“So many great memories began with a call to Zama ITT,” wrote Michelle Foust. “Thank you for providing such excellent service! Sad to hear that you’re closing.”
“As a customer of Zama ITT and someone who has enjoyed traveling over many years through Zama ITT [,] this saddens me,” wrote Betty Ann Stinson. “Thank you for your dedication to your customers and providing the best as a travel agency. I’ll miss you.”
The office’s employees are looking for jobs, but said if the travel industry improves, they would like to return to their jobs at Zama ITT.
Clements, a retired lieutenant colonel, was first stationed as a Soldier at Camp Zama in the 1970s for nearly eight years, and he returned to the base to work for Zama ITT in 1985.
Over the years, Clements has witnessed Zama ITT help people visit “almost every country except North Korea.”
Travel is valuable because it exposes people to different cultures and helps them keep learning, Clements said. “The more you travel the more you learn and feel comfortable working with other people,” he said.
Katsuhisa Takagi, the office’s sales representative for more than two years, said he likes traveling also, and it is one of the reasons he wanted to work in the travel industry.
“You learn something new,” said Takagi, who has specialized in assisting customers with domestic trips within Japan. “You can see a new culture … it makes your life much better.”
Camp Zama’s FMWR offers Leisure Travel Services and Outdoor Recreation offer programs through their website. Find the latest information on current tours, trips and adventures at https://zama.armymwr.com.