In order to boost a tourism industry that has been hit hard after devastating tsunamis and earthquakes, the Japanese government is considering handing out 10,000 free flights to travelers who blog about their travel experiences in the country.
Tourism has fallen sharply in Japan. According to the Telegraph, fears of nuclear fallout caused the number of tourists fell by 50 percent in the three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
A few more tourists came over the summer, but the total number was still nearly 40 percent less than the normal amount of people visiting the land of the rising sun.
The trips are not completely free, however. Reports indicate that participants will be required to pay for all of their own expenses, including food and lodging.
Also, in exchange for the free airplane tickets, participants are expected to publicize Japan through blogs and social media. Applicants put down which part of Japan they want to go to and if they win, they blog about the area they visit.
Despite the excitement of winning a free round-trip ticket to Japan (worth nearly $2,000 from some parts of the U.S.), the possibility of 10,000 free airplane tickets to Japan has not been welcome with completely open arms from everyone.
Rick Martin, a Tokyo-based writer, said on Penn-Olson.com today that many people believe the money spent on airline tickets would be much better spent on recovery from the natural disasters.
Further dampening Americans' hopes of a free ticket to Japan, Martin said that because most tourists to Japan come from China and South Korea, it would be a better idea to reward those countries. According to a flight search on Kayak.com, it would also be more cost effective; a flight from Beijing to Tokyo was 60 percent cheaper than a flight from New York to Tokyo.
Despite the numerous reports about free flights to Japan, the government has yet to make a final decision. The Japanese National Tourism Organization (JNTO) released a statement on its website telling prospective travel bloggers not to get their hopes up just yet.
"Recently a number of media outlets have publicized articles about this, however it is subject to government budgetary approval, and no details have been decided yet," JNTO said on its website. "We appreciate your kind understanding."