File this under “OMG DO WANT”: the Japanese government is planning to give out 10,000 free airline tickets to foreign tourists in a bid to boost the Japanese tourism industry.
According to the Yomiuri Shinbun, the Japan National Tourism Organization plan to open online applications for the free flights in April of 2012 — subject to government budgetary approval.
Applicants are required to send personal details such as names and passport numbers, as well as a short essay outlining their travel plans. Successful applicants will be required to write a report about their trip, which will be used for promotional purposes by the JNTO. All other expenses such as visa applications, hotel accommodations, and pocket money will be shouldered by the traveler.
UPDATE (20 October 2011)
The Japanese Minister of Tourism Hata Hiroshi confirmed that plans are moving along well for the program. They have also hinted at their preferences for the foreign travelers receiving free tickets: 1) travelers must have an excellent grasp of English, Chinese, Korean, or Spanish; 2) travelers must have an influential Facebook and Twitter network.
For announcements on the applications, stay tuned to the Japan National Travel Organization website.
The Japanese government hopes that the experiences of the 10,000 lucky travelers allay fears about visiting Japan in the aftermath of March 2011. The government has said Japan is safe except for the immediate vicinity of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, where work is still being done to contain the damage caused by the plant’s failure.
Personally, I see this as a good thing — although I hope, as Nice on our Facebook wall has pointed out, visa assistance will also be extended to succesful applicants from the Philippines. Howzabout you guys — if you managed to snag a ticket would you go, and what places do you plan to visit?
Thanks to Danny Choo of Culture Japan for the heads-up!