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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011

Tourism blitz: 10,000 to get free flights to Japan


Staff writer

The Japan Tourism Agency said Tuesday that 10,000 foreigners will be given free round-trip tickets to the country in the next fiscal year as part of a campaign to reverse the plunge in tourists since the March 11 disasters and amid a prohibitively high yen.

The agency said it will open a website to solicit applicants. They will be required to answer questions on postquake tourism in Japan and what their travel goals are in the country.

The successful applicants will receive return air tickets but will have to pay for their accommodations and other expenses, said Shuichi Kameyama, head of the agency's international tourism promotion division.

The agency has requested ¥1.1 billion in the fiscal 2012 budget to cover the campaign, he said.

During or after their visits, the agency will ask the recipients to post on blogs or other online social media about their stay in Japan, hoping positive feedback will lure more visitors.

Officials said fear of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and the soaring yen are discouraging foreigners from visiting and it may take years before international tourism rebounds to the prequake level, let alone achieves the agency's goal of drawing 30 million foreign travelers a year. Officials agree that promoting tourism is vital for Japan to help offset domestic demand and to revitalize regional economies.

"First and foremost, we will need to show (the world) that Japan is a good place to visit," Kameyama said.

The agency said it came up with the idea after an online survey of 2,000 people around the world in August indicated many would trust what their fellow countrymen say about traveling in Japan.



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The Japan Times

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