Japan ‘offers 10,000 free flights for foreigners'

Disaster-hit nation looks to boost tourism with unprecedented giveaway

For most gap year travellers Japan has never been a popular destination owing to the high cost of travel and living, but a new initiative could suddenly make the country a more attractive proposition for backpackers.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has reported that there is to be a giveaway of 10,000 free flights for foreigners. Tourism officials hope that the proposal will increase visitors to the country as it recovers from the devastation of earlier this year.

In the three months following the tsunami, earthquake and Fukushima nuclear power meltdown during March, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan fell by more than 50%, according to The Telegraph.   

Kylie Clark, a spokesperson for JNTO, said: "The unprecedented giveaway has been proposed so that through visiting Japan people can experience for themselves that the destination is safe."

She added: "Rather than spend millions on a big advertising campaign, we hope to give away free flights so people can go and experience Japan for themselves and then tell their family, friends and colleagues."

The Japanese free flight giveaway is subject to government budget approval but could start as early as April next year.

Enthusiastic travellers should be able to enter the giveaway by submitting an online application to the Japan Tourism Agency, saying where in Japan they would like to visit. Successful entrants will be asked to write about their trip.  

If the proposal does go ahead JNTO’s London office will be announcing further details on how to apply via Twitter, Facebook and on their website

The concept of 10,000 free trips up for grabs is a shrewd move for Japanese tourism officials, with competition for tickets expected to generate a wealth of free publicity and social media buzz. 

There was a timely confidence boost for Japan last week when it was announced that the country had been voted 'favourite long-haul country' and Tokyo 'favourite overseas city' in The Guardian & Observer Travel Awards 2011.

Will you be entering the flight giveaway? Where would you want to visit in Japan? Would you rather be a samurai or a ninja? Let us know by leaving some comments below.