Japan Isn’t Giving Away Those 10,000 Free Flights After All

The plan received widespread media attention, but the big-budget deal was quashed by Japan's government.

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Are you packing their bags after reading the Japan National Tourism Organization’s plan to offer 10,000 free flights to the country this year? Stop. Turns out, visitors will have to pay for the trip out of their own pockets.

Japan’s tourism has seen a sharp decline following the country’s devastating natural (and chemical) disasters last year; the number of foreign visitors dropped by almost a third as compared to the previous year, USA Today reports.

No doubt many of the concerns for potential travelers are the risks of exposure to radiation, though the U.S. State Department released a statement last July saying that “health and safety risks to land areas which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.” Still, a lack of significant risk isn’t the same as no risk, so the struggle to draw in tourists is understandable.

(READ: Is Post-Fukushima Japan Safe for Tourists?)

Japan’s tourism agency proposed a $14.3 million program offering free flights in 2012, but the budget was declined. The organization issued a press release last week, explaining, “…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.”

But not to dissuade anyone from coming lest they think that Japan is ravished beyond hope, the agency urges travelers that the country is ready to host them: “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.”

So, no free flights, but you could always couch surf to offset costs.

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