Japan offers free flights to boost tourism
by North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy (Oct. 10, 2011)Japan will offer 10,000 foreigners free plane trips to the country next year to try to kick-start the tourism industry.
The country's tourism agency announced the plan to counter the slump in visitor numbers since the March tsunami and nuclear disasters.
In the three months since the disasters, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has crashed by more than 50 per cent.
The sharp drop began to ease somewhat in the summer.
In June and July, tourist figures were down 36 per cent from a year ago, easing to 32 per cent in August as the country worked to reassure foreign tourism markets.
Japan's Yomiuri newspaper says the tourism agency will ask would-be travellers to submit online applications, with hopes the successful applicants will write positive reports about their experiences in Japan which will be published online.
Tourism authorities hope positive reports from travellers about their experiences in Japan will help ease international worries about visiting the country, the newspaper said.
The program, which will require travellers to cover other costs such as accommodation, is expected to start from April, subject to government budgetary approval.
The government has said Japan is safe except for the immediate vicinity of the crippled plant, where work crews are still trying to bring the facility to a cold shutdown.
ABC/AFP: Japan offers free flights to boost tourism
Tourism Remedy: 10,000 Free Flights to Japan
By Yoree Koh (Oct. 11, 2011)Japan has enlisted celebrities far and wide to reassure timid travelers that it's safe to visit after the March 11 disasters triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
But over half a year on, with few visitors biting, the national tourism agency is looking to try a different tack that perhaps outshines the biggest of star power: Come to Japan…for free.
Thus the Japan Tourism Agency has proposed offering free airfare to 10,000 foreigners to visit the country next year.
The project would only cover travelers' airline fees: visitors would have to pay their own food, lodging and other costs. Still, if implemented, it will cost about \1.1 billion ($14.3 million). That's roughly 10% of the tourism agency's overall 2012 budget appropriation request, and an indication of how serious the tourism slide may have become. The national budget is expected to be approved in parliament next March.
“Since the earthquake, the number of visitors has dropped drastically, so to make an impact we think it's necessary to have this many people (10,000) come to Japan,” said Shuichi Kameyama, a Japan Tourism Agency official, on Tuesday. The stats confirm the slide: The number of foreign visitors in Japan dropped 32% to 546,800 people in August compared to the same period the previous year, marking the sixth consecutive monthly decline, according to official numbers from the Japan National Tourism Organization, the operational arm of the national tourism agency.
Although the number of tourists from Asia has recovered faster than those from the Western hemisphere, Mr. Kameyama said, the yen being near an all-time record high versus the dollar has served up a double whammy for the industry. While decline has eased from April, when visitor numbers plunged over 60%, the rate of contraction is still steep: Visitors from the U.S. have fallen off by a third and almost half as many people from France came to Japan in August compared to the previous year. Those declines have inevitably pinched the local economy. The Japan Tourism Agency said spending by foreign tourists dropped about 47% to \120.8 billion during the April to June period compared to the previous year.
Between the yen and the nuclear issue, near-term recovery prospects appear bleak, despite a long catalog of video testimonials from famous faces encouraging wavering tourists to visit Japan on the national tourism organization’s website. The site also includes a wealth of information on the latest radiation readings, though it remains to be seen whether that offers reassurance or an unwelcome reminder of the lingering nuclear crisis.
The hope is that Japan's allure as a tourist destination can recover via word of mouth if people do actually take the trouble to visit. In return for a free flight, participants will be asked to share their experiences in a report to be published online. Online applications for the promotion will open next April, if all goes according to plan, and the agency will select the candidates by early summer.
One ray of hope for Japan's beleaguered tourism industry, and perhaps an indication of where future marketing efforts might be usefully focused: In awards announced late last month, readers of British daily The Guardian voted Japan their favorite long-haul travel destination, while Tokyo was elected favorite overseas city destination, for the second year running.
Japan Real Time: Tourism Remedy: 10,000 Free Flights to Japan
Japan to offer free flights to 10,000 tourists next year
by Agencies (Oct. 11, 2011)TOKYO - Japan will offer 10,000 foreigners free flights to the country next year as part of efforts to revive the tourism industry, in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in March that triggered the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.
The Japan Tourism Agency said the programme is subject to government budget approval but could start by April next year, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Would-be travellers will be asked to submit online applications for the free flights, detailing which areas of the country they would like to visit.
The agency will then select the winners - who would have to pay for their own food, accommodation and other travel costs - and ask them to write a report about their trip, which will be published online.
The tourism authorities hope that positive reports from travellers about their experiences in Japan will help encourage others to visit the country.
From April to June, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan dropped by more than half year-on-year, reported AFP.
The sharp drop began to ease somewhat in the summer - in July, tourist figures were down 36 per cent from a year ago. Tourist arrivals continued to improve to 32 per cent in August compared to last year as the country reassured foreign tourism markets, said AFP.
The government has said Japan is safe except for the immediate vicinity of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, which is still leaking radiation.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit north-east Japan on March 11 left more than 23,000 dead or missing and caused the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
TODAY online: Japan to offer free flights to 10,000 tourists next year
Dream Over for Free Flights to Japan
(Dec, 27, 2011)Back in October, Japan's national tourism agency floated a plan that seemed an ideal remedy to boost flagging visitor numbers in the wake of the March 11 disasters. Free flights to Japan in 2012. A full 10,000 of them.
Now, as the country crunches through the detail of tight budget numbers for next year, the hope many had for visiting Japan in 2012 has evaporated into a pipe dream: There won't be any free flights next year, period. The budget for them has not been approved.
Whatever tourism authorities thought a good idea, Japan simply can't afford it, the government's budget planners have concluded. The Tokyo-based Japan Tourism Agency didn’t sugar-coat the decision in a statement on its website late Dec. 26: “The project titled ‘Fly to Japan!’ (to offer flight tickets to 10,000 foreigners with high potential to communicate Japan’s attractions), which had been covered in a number of media in autumn this year, was not approved as a governmental draft budget of FY 2012.”
Judging by the number of people whose imagination was caught by the mouthwatering proposal, and ever since - requests to JRT for more information have come in every week since the October announcement - there will be a fair number of disappointed potential travelers out there.
The tourism agency's message may irritate some.
“We express our hearty gratitude to a multitude of people for offering inquiries and messages to support Japan after its coverage,” the agency notes on its website. “Japan Tourism Agency and Japan National Tourism Organization would like to inform you of the events and promotions in 2012. If you are interested, please register as a Visit Japan fan,” the officials suggest.
A little blunt? Perhaps something is lost in translation. After all, the country as a whole is still very much in recovery mode, financially as well as in other ways, after what former prime minister Naoto Kan called Japan's worst crisis since Word War II.
The London-based arm of the Japan National Tourism Organization put the turn of events in a context that might soften the blow for some: “We realize that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction,” wrote Kylie Clark, head of PR and marketing at the Japan National Tourism Organization in London.
“We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aid those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights.”
Japan Real Time: Dream Over for Free Flights to Japan
“10,000 Free Flights to Japan” Plan Killed
(Dec, 28, 2011)Back in October, a Japanese government plan to award 10,000 free plane tickets to foreign tourists was widely reported in the Western media. As I wrote at the time, it had yet not been approved by the government and it was by no means certain that the plan would go forward.
A few days ago, the JTO put an official announcement on its website: the plan will receive no funding, so it’s dead.
The project titled Fly to Japan! (to offer flight tickets to 10,000 foreigners with high potential to communicate Japan’s attractions), which had been covered in a number of media in autumn this year, was not approved as a governmental draft budget of FY 2012.
We express our hearty gratitude to a multitude of people for offering inquiries and messages to support Japan after its coverage.
As the recovery from the earthquake is an ongoing urgent task, Japan has been vigorously working towards its restoration with the support from the world. Almost all of Japan has been back to normal and ready to welcome visitors. We are sincerely looking forward to having you to see Japan with your own eyes.
Japan Probe: Flights to Japan” Plan Killed