Japan will offer 10,000 foreigners free airfares to visit the country next year, in an attempt to boost the tourism industry which has been hit by the ongoing nuclear disaster, a report said Monday.
The Japan Tourism Agency plans to ask would-be travelers to submit online applications for the free flights, detailing which areas of the country they would like to visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.
The agency will select the successful entrants and ask them to write a report about their trip which will be published on the Internet.
Tourism authorities hope that positive reports from travelers about their experiences in Japan will help ease international worries about visiting the country, the newspaper said.
The program, which will require travelers to cover other costs such as accommodation, is expected to start from next April, subject to government budgetary approval.
The number of foreign tourists to Japan fell more than 50% year-on-year during the three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The sharp drop began to ease somewhat in the summer.
In June and July, tourist figures were down 36% from a year ago, easing to 32% in August as the country worked to reassure foreign tourism markets.
The government has said Japan is safe except for the immediate vicinity of the crippled plant, where work crews are still trying to bring the facility to a cold shutdown.