Japan is offering free flights to 10,000 foreigners to visit the country next April to boost tourism badly hit by the March 11 nuclear disaster.
Travelers can apply online for the free tickets, detailing specific areas of the country they would like to visit, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The program is subject to government budgetary approval and travelers have to pay for their accommodation and other expenses.
Tourism authorities will randomly select some of those invited to write positive reports about their traveling experiences so as to ease international worries about visiting the country.
Details such as available destinations, the number of tickets for Hong Kong people and the drawing system have yet to be finalized.
However, local travel agency Package Tours’ business consultant CN Yuen does not think the plan will work. “Freebies like this may not be appealing if people are unwilling to travel,” he said. “The promotion does not erase personal concerns. If Japan really wishes to reassure foreign tourism markets, it should have introduced this marketing strategy four months ago.”
Yuen said if the plan goes ahead, the Japan Tourism Agency will most likely work with Japanese airlines JAL and ANA, with passengers from Hong Kong flying to Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya, and leaving out areas such as Hokkaido and Fukuoka.
Yuen admitted sales of Japanese travel packages in March were flat while demand for those in April and May dropped 90 percent compared with the same period last year. But since June, sales have been rising steadily.
The number of foreign tourists to Japan fell 50 percent year on year for the three months following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.