The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has decided to support initiatives to increase the number of foreign visitors to Japan by granting a special certification to regional airports actively seeking to attract foreign visitors. Key measures will include reducing or waiving landing fees for international flights and supporting the development of immigration facilities. Foreign visitors tend to flock to Japan’s urban areas, and the aim is to implement the system from fiscal 2017 in order to energize regional areas by attracting foreign visitors.
The framework will target airports operated by national or regional governments. Major airports, such as Haneda, Narita, Central Japan [Chubu Centrair], Kansai, New Chitose, and Fukuoka airports, will not be eligible.
For an airport to be considered for certification, the local government or tourism council must have a detailed plan for attracting foreign visitors, including initiatives to engage in PR overseas and to support travel agencies.
Once an airport is certified, the landing fees for new international routes and increased service on existing international routes will be reduced or waived for three years in the case of Naha, Hiroshima, Hakodate, and other airports operated by the national government. Landing fees will be halved for one year in the case of Shizuoka, Toyama, Okayama, and other airports operated by a local government.
At present, the landing fee for an Airbus A320, for example, is about 80,000 yen per flight. If the landing fee is waived for a daily international flight, that means a savings of 30 million yen a year for the airline.
This fiscal year, the government initiated a system to halve, under certain conditions, landing fees for new international routes and increased service on existing international routes. Some 11 of the 25 eligible airports nationwide are using it. The framework to be introduced will expand that system and is expected to support international flights to regional airports.
For certified airports to enhance their ability to receive visitors from overseas, the framework will also support the development of immigration facilities, including customs and immigration inspections. In cooperation with the Japan Tourism Agency, the framework will support efforts to expand public transportation linking airports with regional cities, to create multilingual signage, and to enable airport staff to handle foreign languages.
The government has set the target of attracting 40 million foreign visitors in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.