Japan departure tax: International visitors to pay 1000 yen fee

Leaving Japan will get a little more expensive for travellers starting this week.

Japan's National Tax Agency Ministry in Finance on Monday instituted the "International Tourist Tax" on most international travellers leaving Japan. It is widely known as the "sayonara tax."

Airlines and cruise lines must collect the tax from all passengers, with a few exceptions, upon departure and give it to the government of Japan. The passengers will have to pay the tax before they board the cruise or flight.

International tourists leaving Japan must pay 1000 yen per departure. That is about $A13.

Those who will not have to pay the tax include ship aircraft crew members, people being deported, those who are in Japan for less than 24 hours, cruise passengers who enter the country due to weather or other uncontrollable circumstances, and children younger than 2.

Diplomats and US and United Nations armed forces personnel travelling for official purposes will also be exempt.

On its website, the agency says the tax will "expand and enhance Japan's tourist infrastructure in an effort to make Japan the top tourist destination."

Tokyo is scheduled to host the 2020 summer Olympics and will likely generate millions of dollars through this tax.

The proposal has been in debate since 2017. From the beginning, the International Air Transport Association, the global trade association for airlines, has lobbied against it, saying it would negatively affect tourism growth.

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The Japanese government says it wants to attract 40 million visitors by 2020. A departure tax, the association estimates, would derail that effort, leading to a reduction of up to 7 million passengers.

But the Japanese government says the tax is needed to "create a more comfortable, stress-free tourist environment, improve access to information about a wide variety of attractions of Japan, (and) develop tourist resources taking advantage of the unique cultural and natural assets of respective regions."

Tourism is booming in Japan. Australians have been significant contributors to this boom, with visitor numbers increasing almost 1000 per cent over the past 20 years. In 2017, 495,000 Australians visited the country and Japan has consistently rated number one as the most-searched destination on traveller.com.au. 

However, there are signs that the famously polite Japanese are beginning to become frustrated with the surge in tourists. Tourism authorities have launched campaigns to try and get tourists to visit less popular destinations, while locals in hotspots like Kyoto have complained about bad tourist behaviour.

Countries including Australia, China, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Mexico and Sweden charge departure taxes. In many cases, the taxes are included in the airfare. Malaysia will begin charging one in June. 

with USA Today

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Japan

See also: Overtourism is about to ruin our favourite place to travel

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