JTA ticket giveaway scrapped

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The Japan Tourism Agency’s plan to offer 10,000 free round-trip tickets to prominent foreign Web users has been scuttled by the Finance Ministry, which rejected its ¥1.18 billion budget request for fiscal 2012.

JTA official Masatoshi Tsukasaki apologized for raising high hopes over the image-boosting project. “We are deeply sorry,” the international tourism promotion official said.

The Finance Ministry is responsible for scrutinizing all government budget requests. The ministry thought it would be difficult to convince the public of the need to use taxpayer money to pay for the trips of individuals, Tsukasaki said.

The plan developed from a need to reverse plunging tourism numbers in the wake of the March 11 disasters. The agency hoped the tech-savvy applicants would help boost Japan’s image and convince travelers it is a safe to visit despite widespread the radiation fears generated by the Fukushima disaster.

Foreign tourism to Japan has plunged since March 11, which sparked three meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.