Japan May Offer Thousands of Free Flights to Boost Tourism

It has been a very rough year for Japan. After the horrendous earthquake and ensuing tsunami of this past March, the country has been facing yet another crisis: lack of tourism.

Listen to Rick’s latest travel advice: Find cheap flights to Japan

Now the government is hoping to change that, or at least make a start at reversing this trend, by giving away 10,000 free airline tickets to individuals who will blog, tweet or otherwise harness social media to tell the world about the wonders of Japan.

Free Flights for Social Media Coverage

It is not a done deal yet. The budget request by the Japan Tourism Agency for $14 million to cover the free flights has not been approved, but it sounds like a good idea. Here is what this modern day publicity stunt would entail:

  • Applicants would submit potential travel plans/itineraries for a stay in Japan
  • 10,000 winners would be selected on the basis of “how interesting” those plans are
  • Travelers would be required to post about their experiences on social media
  • Hotel and meal costs would be at the traveler’s own expense

See our tips for finding cheap flights to Asia

There is no requirement (that we can find) that says winners must say good things about their host country, but it is only natural to have positive feelings toward a country that gives you a free plane ticket. And besides, Japan is a wonderful country. The problem is, few have seen it lately.

Japan Tourism Figures Way Down

In some areas of Japan, the number of visitors is down 90%, and overall the nation has seen a decline in tourists by about a third compared to last year. In a difficult economy, and with some rebuilding in tsunami-affected areas still to be done, this is bad news indeed.

Boeing’s Amazing New Dreamliner is now in flight, with a Japanese carrier

Japan Says Thank You

By the way, Japanese officials say they have another motive for this “great ticket give-away”: gratitude. According to CNN, the JapanTourism Agency’s Masatoshi Tsukasaki said, “The world helped Japan to come back on its feet. We would like to show how much progress we have made since then.”

Question for our readers: Will you be trying for one of these free plane tickets? Let us know, and we will keep you up-to-date on any forthcoming details on the ticket give-away.

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Published: October 12, 2011