Destinations

Say Konnichiwa to Japan’s new departure tax

Laine Fullerton

From January 7 2018, all travellers leaving Japan will be required to pay a 1000-yen ‘sayonara tax’.

While the figure appears hefty in yen, it only equates to AU$12.

Then again, that would probably cover our sushi lunches for the next few days.

Sushi GIF via Giphy

The tax that passed through the Diet last Wednesday in Tokyo, applies to any Japanese and non-Japanese travellers leaving the country by air or sea.

And no, the tax didn’t have to restrict its eating habits, the Diet refers to Japan’s bicameral legislature who are responsible for passing laws.

Under the law endorsed by the House of Councillors, toddlers under two and transit passengers who depart the country within 24 hours of arrival will be exempt.

The new tax is designed to assist infrastructure and improve services for tourists, in the lead up the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Part of the revenue will be allocated to the installation of gates equipped with facial recognition.

Other plans include free wireless internet services on public transport and implementing e-payment systems.

According to The Japan Times, the country has witnessed a surge of inbound tourist numbers and based on data compiled by the Justice Ministry, there were around 45.2 million departures from Japan in 2017 attracting a record 28.69 million tourists, up 19.3 per cent from 2016.

The Japanese government hopes to use the tax to boost tourism, with it expected to raise around AU$500 million in 2020 as it hopes to attract 40 million visitors annually once the Olympics take place.

After criticism from the travel industry when the tax was first proposed last year, a bill specifying how the government will use funds from the tax passed through the Diet last Tuesday, a day before the final approval of the tax.

Criticism arose around speculation that the government could divert the money for other purposes or that higher prices would inevitably put people off visiting Japan.

The new legislation limits the use of departure tax revenue to tourism-related projects, countering criticism and ensuring the country is set to handle the influx of tourists due for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The new permanent tax will be adopted for the first time since 1992.

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