“We doubt tourism would increase,” MOF said. “It’s just throwing money away.”
The Japanese edition of the Wall Street Journal said, “The possibility of many foreigners visiting Japan has disappeared as nothing more than a dream.”
JTA’s plan was to give away free airplane tickets to Japan to foreigners. These foreigners would be so impressed that they would return to their home countries and burn up the blogs and social media with glowing stories about a safe Japan. Then Japanese tourism, heavily in the doldrums since the tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima — would magically recover.
The JTA calculated the cost of the tickets to be around nine million dollars. In defense of their plan, a JTA spokesman said, “The direct economic benefits of having 10,000 foreigners visit Japan would roughly be in the 10 million dollar range, with indirect economic benefits running in the range of around 27 million dollars.”
Given the price of many hotels in Tokyo, an estimate that foreigners would spend around $1,000 each during the course of their stay in Japan (assuming a week’s stay) is conservative, if not outright modest.
After the MOF rejected the project, the JTA said, “It’s regrettable that high expectations among foreigners have been disappointed.”
However, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, the JTA may have a Plan B in reserve: to spend approximately 5 million dollars to invite foreigners to visit the Tohoku (northeast) and northern Kanto areas, roughly defined as Saitama, Tochigi, and Fukushima prefectures.
Then the foreigners could still blog and use social media to say that Japan was safe, setting off a wave of foreign tourism to the Tohoku region.
Anyone up for a tour of Fukushima?