Last October, in an effort to bolster the country’s reputation following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Japan Tourism Agency announced that it would give away 10,000 free flights to Japan in 2012. However, the day after Christmas, officials announced that the flight giveaway will be a no go.
After initially reporting the story about the campaign, interest in the story shot through the roof. People from all around the globe wanted to dig deeper for details. Where can I find the application form? How does the application process work? When can I apply? These were just a few of the many questions we were bombarded with as readers sought more information on how to score a free ticket to Japan.
Instead of receiving additional information on the campaign’s details, those who had been waiting patiently received word of the Japanese Government’s announcement that it had declined the budget for this proposal.
Kylie Clark, head of PR and marketing for the Japan National Tourism Organization, had this to say:
We realize that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese Government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction. We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aid those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights.
The places most popular with visitors to Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Osaka, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Okinawa – were outside the earthquake and tsunami affected areas. Please do not let the fact that there will be no free flights put you off visiting Japan. There are lots of great deals available and Japan is ready and waiting to welcome back visitors more warmly than ever before.
Essentially, Japan launched a campaign that was so seemingly generous and covered by news outlets around the globe only to back out less than three months later. As a country that is still struggling to recover from a devastating natural disaster and its aftermath, does Japan deserve a pass on this blunder?