(TOKYO-Relaxnews) – The Japan Tourism Agency has had to scrap plans to give away 10,000 free flights to anyone who wanted to visit the country after the government refused to pay for the scheme.
The unprecedented giveaway was the centerpiece of a campaign to bring tourists back to Japan after the natural disasters of March 11 and the ongoing problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The agency came up with the scheme as a way of reinvigorating the Japanese tourism industry and
the 10,000 people who were given the flights would have been encouraged to spread the message that Japan is safe and still a fantastic destination for a holiday via social media sites and blogs.
Overseas offices of the Japan National Tourism Organization reported a surge in interest in Japan after news of the campaign was first announced in October and expressed regret at the government’s decision.
“We realize that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction,” the agency said on its website.
It emphasized, however, that most of the country has not been affected by the disasters and that the most popular tourist destinations — Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Osaka, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Okinawa — were outside the areas impacted by the disasters and completely unaffected
“Please do not let the fact that there will be no free flights put you off visiting Japan,” said Kylie Clark, head of public relations and marketing for the JNTO in London.
“There are lots of great deals available and Japan is ready and waiting to welcome back visitors more warmly than ever before,” she added.