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2020 Summer Olympics

Japan could make US$353 million in Olympic year 2020 with departure tax

The travel industry has expressed strong opposition to the plan which the government aims to put in place by 2019

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 1:58pm

The Japanese government is looking to cash in on the sudden upsurge in foreign tourists with the imposition of a new Y1,000 (US$9) “departure tax” when anyone leaves the country.

The government was aiming to draw up the details of the new tax – which would apply to Japanese nationals travelling abroad as well as foreign tourists – before the end of the year and to have it in place in fiscal 2019, although the travel industry has expressed strong opposition to the plan.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan went through the 20 million barrier on September 15, 45 days earlier than in the previous calendar year and underlining once again the robustness of the nation’s tourism sector.

In calendar 2016, Japan saw 24 million foreign arrivals – an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year – and is on course to surpass that figure.

The government has set a target of 40 million arrivals in 2020, the year in which Tokyo will host the Olympic Games, and says the funds it raises through the new tax would be funnelled to the Japan Tourism Agency to expand overseas advertising campaigns as well as to improve multilingual travel services across the country.

The tax could potentially generate about 40 billion yen (US$353 million) based on 2020 visitor targets.

Justifying the proposal, the JTA has pointed out that anyone leaving Australia was required to pay a tax of around Y5,000 per person, while South Korea imposed a Y1,000 fee on people departing by air and Y100 on ferry passengers.

Representatives of the travel industry were expected to be invited to sit on a panel to consider the proposal, but operators have already voiced opposition out of concern that higher prices will inevitably put people off visiting Japan.

“The government’s proposals are not completed or clear yet, although we as an association representing travel agencies are consistently opposed to additional taxes being imposed on visitors,” said Hiroshi Sawabe, executive director of The Japan Association of Travel Agents.

“We will be watching developments on this matter very closely because we need more detailed information.”