A bill specifying how revenue from a soon-to-be-imposed ¥1,000 departure tax will be used was enacted by the Diet on Tuesday, as the government looks to boost investment in tourism amid a record-breaking number of foreign visitors.
All travelers, both Japanese and non-Japanese, leaving the nation by plane or ship will face the fee as of January 7, 2019, under the first permanent levy to be introduced since the land value tax was established in 1992. Children under 2 years old and transit passengers who depart within 24 hours of arrival will be exempt.
The move comes amid a surge in inbound travelers. The nation attracted a record 28.69 million tourists in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year and reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to increase that figure to 40 million by 2020, when Tokyo will be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to 60 million by 2030.
Seeking to capitalize on one of the few growth sectors in the rapidly graying country, the government aims to use the extra funds to boost tourism infrastructure and promote travel destinations in rural Japan, as well as backing global tourism campaigns. According to the legislation, the government also plans to ask public transportation operators to expand free wireless internet services as well as electronic payment systems.
Japan saw around 45.2 million depart its shores in 2017, according to a Japan Times calculation based on data compiled by the Justice Ministry. That means the new tax could generate around ¥45 billion annually, but some critics fear the extra fee could dampen the travel appetites of budget tourists.
Similar levies have been adopted in other countries. Australia charges a 60 Australian dollar (¥5,000) departure tax, while the United States slaps a fee of $14 (¥1,500) on international travelers from countries in its visa waiver program. South Korea imposes a 10,000 won (¥1,000) departure fee on air travelers.
Domestically, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Osaka Prefectural Government charge a lodging tax of ¥100 to ¥300 per person per night to finance tourism promotion and other measures. Kyoto plans to follow suite from this October.