Japan Follows Trend, Adds Departure Tax

by Jessica Montevago
Japan Follows Trend, Adds Departure Tax

The new ‘sayonara tax’ is added to the air and sea travel fares of passengers visiting Japan, regardless of nationality. Photo: Shutterstock

Travelers who want to see Kyoto’s classical Buddhist temples or Tokyo’s neon-lit skyscrapers will have to cough up a few extra yen to visit Japan.

The country introduced a new departure tax – known as the “sayonara tax” – last week, tacking on a ¥1,000 (US $9.23) fee to air and sea travel fares of passengers, regardless of nationality.

Anyone who enters the country because of "unavoidable circumstances," such as flight reroutes and bad weather, won’t be hit with the tax, according to The Japan Times. Children under the age of two and passengers who are in Japan for less than 24 hours will also be exempt.

The Japanese government expects to generate around ¥50 billion ($461 million) in revenue by the end of 2019, which will be used to attract more inbound tourists in anticipation for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. While more than 30 million travelers visited Japan in 2018, the government hopes to increase the number to 40 million visitors by 2020.

The additional revenue will be put back into the tourism sector, aiming to improve visitor satisfaction by enhancing tourism infrastructure and encouraging visitors to explore areas beyond traditionally popular destinations.

To begin, the additional revenue will be allocated for introducing more facial recognition gates at airports and seaports for speedier immigration procedures; and for making more information available in multiple languages at cultural properties and national parks.

While this might present a burden for cruise lines and airlines that have to collect the tax prior to boarding, it is by no means a new issue. While the International Air Transport Association, the global trade association for airlines, has lobbied against the tax, saying it would negatively affect tourism growth, many governments see it as necessary to reinvest in tourism.

Japan is just the latest country to impose a departure tax on visitors, joining Australia, China, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Mexico and Sweden. Malaysia is also considering imposing a levy on all outbound air passengers starting June 1.

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