Saying sayonara to be a taxing affair next year

TOKYO • From next year, all travellers leaving Japan will have to pay a "Sayonara levy" of 1,000 yen (S$12), reported Japanese media.

The departure tax is scheduled to take effect on Jan 7 next year, and will apply to both Japanese and foreign travellers leaving the country by plane or ship, reported Jiji Press.

The levy will be added to airfares and ship fares, it said. Travellers under the age of two and transit passengers leaving Japan within 24 hours of arrival will be exempted.

The Japanese Parliament yesterday passed a Bill on the new levy, which is expected to add some 43 billion yen per fiscal year to government revenue.

Tourism has become one of the few growth sectors in the world's third-largest economy, which has enjoyed a surge in the number of inbound tourists in recent years.

Last year, Japan attracted a record 28.69 million tourists, up 19.3 per cent from the previous year, reported the Japan Times.

It was the sixth consecutive yearly increase, it said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government aims to increase that figure to 40 million by 2020, when Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to 60 million by 2030.

The government aims to use the revenue from the departure tax to boost tourism infrastructure and promote travel destinations in rural Japan, as well as fund global tourism campaigns.

According to the new legislation, the government also plans to get public transportation operators to expand free wireless Internet services as well as roll out electronic payment systems.

Tokyo also plans to allocate part of the money to the installation of gates equipped with facial recognition, reported Kyodo news agency.

Similar departure levies are in place in countries such as the United States, Australia and South Korea: The US slaps a fee of 1,500 yen on international travellers in its visa waiver programme; Australia collects about 5,000 yen per person; South Korea imposes a 1,000 yen departure fee on air travellers.

Some critics fear the new levy could dampen budget tourism.

The Tokyo metropolitan government and the Osaka prefectural government already charge a lodging tax of 100 to 300 yen per person per night respectively to finance local tourism promotion and other measures.

Kyoto plans to follow suit beginning in October.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2018, with the headline 'Saying sayonara to be a taxing affair next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe