Seven months after an earthquake devastated its Pacific coast, Japan plans to boost its ailing tourism industry with a lucrative offer for foreigners: come to Japan for free. The Japan Tourism Agency will offer 10,000 free round-trip airfares to foreigners to visit the country next year to ease international fears of spreading radiation. Tourism in Japan plummeted by 50 per cent in the three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Authorities lifted evacuation advisories for five towns just outside the plant’s 12-mile evacuation zone on Sept. 30, although citizens with radiation-monitoring equipment continue to report small radiation hot spots as far away as Tokyo.
The tourism project will cost about $14.6 million, roughly 10 per cent of the tourism agency’s 2012 budget request. Successful applicants selected by the agency must pay for their own accommodation and other expenses, and will be asked to write a report about their trip to be published on the Internet. If the project is approved, the agency will start accepting applications from would-be travellers in April 2012.