If you're planning on visiting Japan for the next year's Tokyo Olympics, you might score yourself a free flight to further explore the country.
Japan Airlines will give away 50,000 free domestic flights to international visitors over summer in 2020, as part of a tourism campaign tying in to next year's Olympic Games.
The flights will depart from Tokyo and Osaka between July and September 2020, which includes the Tokyo Olympics dates from July 24 to August 9.
The promotion is part of the Japan National Tourism Organization's (JNTO) Your Japan 2020 campaign, with full details to be released in February. The campaign aims to draw tourists into regional parts of Japan beyond the Olympic city.
The free flights are only available to international visitors, who will choose from four regional destinations to fly to. To be eligible, entrants will also have to sign up to Japan Airlines' frequent flyer scheme, JAL Mileage Bank, which is free to join.
The promotion comes as the JNTO announced that Japan enjoyed a significant increase in visitors during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The number of tourists from countries participating in the event increased by 29.4 per cent in September and October compared with the same period last year.
According to the organisation, there were 764,100 visitors from all participating countries during the two months, up by about 170,000 from the same period last year. At the same time, the total number of foreign tourists declined by 0.6 per cent in the two months due to a sharp fall in South Korean tourists amid that country's deteriorating ties with Japan.
Among the countries participating in the international sporting event, the number of Irish tourists marked the greatest year-on-year growth rate, at 446.4 per cent, with 21,200 visitors. Samoa, which was in Pool A with Japan, followed with a 412.8 per cent growth rate, hitting 200 visitors, and South Africa, the ultimate World Cup champion, with a 397.9 per cent growth rate, recording 9500 visitors.
By total number of tourists, 280,600 visitors were from the United States, with a 12.9 per cent growth rate; 118,000 were from Britain, with an 85.1 per cent growth rate; and 112,100 were from Australia, with a 16.7 per cent growth rate.
There was evidence of the growth phenomenon continuing beyond the World Cup, with the number of British tourists increasing by 37.5 per cent year on year in November. At the World Cup, four teams - England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland - were from the British Isles.
According to estimates, more than 70 per cent of tourists were visiting Japan for the first time, and most tourists stayed for two weeks or more. The World Cup was held from September 20 to November 2 at 12 venues around Japan.
A survey of host cities conducted by the JNTO after the World Cup found that foreign tourists tended to spend significantly on watching the games and on nightlife experiences, while their accommodation expenses were relatively low.
Restaurants and bars were thriving in the host cities and the tourist information centres received many inquiries about places where foreign tourists could drink beer or watch TV.
The JNTO noted some visitors travelled widely and sought out nature and trekking experiences.
Things that impressed foreign tourists included the kindness of Japanese people, cheap but delicious food, and maps of restaurant locations in multiple languages.
Things that tourists said they wanted more of included high-quality souvenirs (even if they were expensive), restaurants to remain open late at night, and one-day programs in which tourists could communicate with local Japanese.
"We need to leverage the success at the Rugby World Cup for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics," said Tadashi Kaneko, executive vice president of the organisation, at a press conference on Wednesday in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.
- Traveller/The Japan News