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Japan Imposes JPY1,000 Departure Tax on All Foreign Visitors

The JPY1,000 (US$9.22) fee went into effect on Monday and aims to raise funds to support the country's tourism sector.

With the exception of people purchasing tickets before Monday, ambassadors, children under three years old, visitors on a 24-hour (or less) layover and those who arrived because of bad weather or unavoidable circumstances, every non-Japanese person leaving the country by air or sea will be subject to the tax added onto their travel fares. 

The estimated JPY50 billion (US$459 million) it will raise in 2019 will support three main areas: smoother travel logistics, easier access to tourism and cultural information, and promotion of less visited regions. Specific plans include installing more facial recognition cameras at airports to hasten immigration procedures, increasing the amount of foreign-language offerings at cultural sites and national parks and providing for more cashless payment methods for transportation.

The tax, Japan's first since 1992, has recieved criticism. Some Japanese question how a tax aimed at improving the experiences of foreigners is in their interest while others worry that however small, the fee could discourage visitors. According to one Osaka-based tour guide: "Holidaymakers always go for cheaper packages, so even if it’s only JPY1,000 the rise in (tour) prices will be a huge burden for us."

Many experts, however, support the tax. Not unusual to Japan, countries that impose a departure tax include Australia, Bermuda, Cambodia and the Philippines. World Travel & Tourism Council Research Director Rochelle Turner said it makes sense to take advantage of increased tourism numbers and that “for most U.S. visitors, Japan is a long-haul destination and is already known for not being a cheap place to visit.”

Japan's tourism sector is booming; this year it welcomed 30 million visitors for the first time, six times higher than just 16 years ago. By 2030, the number is expected to reach 60 million. The increase of visitors from China, South Korea and Taiwan has contributed significantly to the burgeoning sector. The tax is aimed at simultaneously supporting and taking advantage of the rise in travelers, especially with the approaching 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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