Unsurprisingly, foreign tourism in Japan has plummeted in the past seven months, following the catastrophic events that ravaged the Tohoku region last March. Numbers were down more than 50% in the months directly following the disasters, as much as 80% in some prefectures. They are still generally hovering between 30 and 40% less than what they were a year ago.
Surprisingly, the Japanese Government announced yesterday a drastic plan to turn the situation around. Apparently in the next fiscal year, they will be distributing 10,000 free round-trip plane tickets to Japan. Ten thousand FREE tickets.
This sounds almost too good to be true–the program will cost 1.1 billion yen (about US$14 million), which seems pretty steep. Drastic times call for drastic measures, apparently!
In the near future, would-be travelers will be able to submit online applications in order to be considered for the free flights. Travelers will be expected to pay for other costs such as food and accommodation, as well as write a report about their trip afterward which The Japan Tourism Agency will post online and use for promotional purposes.
The idea is that through social media, the lucky chosen ones will go on to share with their friends and families how wonderful Japan is, as well as how safe it is to travel despite the events of last March.
It’s kind of brilliant–are you more likely to listen to a commercial, or your friend? A billboard, or an actual person’s facebook/twitter/blog? Salesmen have always hunted the personal connection to increase sales, and this is a really exciting experiment in the power of social media and marketing.
That being said, it’s quite an expensive experiment, especially in this difficult economy. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t fall through, and that as many people are able to come to Japan as possible. And even if you don’t get one of the golden tickets, you should still come to Japan–it’s a pretty fantastic place to be!
Will you be applying for a ticket? If you’re chosen, where do you want to visit? Or does it sound too good to be true? As soon as the applications go live, we’ll be sure to let you know!
Yomiuri Shimbun (Japanese language, all others in English)