‘Goodbye’ will soon come with a price tag in Japan

Japan will start charging a departure tax on all visitors. Source: Shutterstock.

YESTERDAY, the Japanese Parliament passed a bill for a new tax that will enforce a fee of JPY1,000 (US$9.37) for all travelers leaving Japan.

The “Sayonara Tax”, which means “Goodbye Tax”, will be added to airfares or ship fares as a surcharge. It applies to both international as well as Japanese travelers, except children under two years old and passengers who are in Japan for less than 24 hours.

This means you won’t be charged if you’re just popping by Japan on a layover. And you won’t need to pay an additional duty at the airport.

According to Japanese news agency Jiji Press, revenue from the tax is estimated to amount to around JPY43 billion (US$402 million) per fiscal year.

The East Asian country has enjoyed a surge in inbound travelers. In 2016, there were about 40 million departures from Japan, including 17 million by Japanese nationals. In 2017, the country attracted a record 28.68 million tourists, reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase. As for departures, Japan saw around 45.2 million leaving its shores in the same year.

The numbers are expected to skyrocket in 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympic and Paralympics Games.

The Kenzo Tange-designed Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building adorned with a large rendering of the Tokyo 2020 Games logo. Source: Shutterstock.

In fact, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to increase tourist arrival numbers to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.

But where will the money go, you ask? The tax collection will be used to promote tourism to Japan. This includes boosting infrastructure and technological advancements and funding tourism campaigns for off-the-beaten-track destinations in rural Japan and other tourism-related projects.

In the near future, travelers to Japan can expect free WiFi service on public transportation, electronic payment options, and facial recognition technology at airport gates.

The new tax is scheduled to kick in on Jan 7, 2019.

A Japan Airlines flight preparing for take-off at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. Source: Shutterstock.

That having said, Japan is not the first country to impose a departure levy.

Other Asia-Pacific countries that have implemented similar fees include:

  • China charges US$16 for all visitors leaving by air.
  • Australia’s “Passenger Movement Charge” slaps a hefty US$45 on travelers departing for another country.
  • Cambodia taxes people leaving the country US$25.
  • Malaysia’s “Airport Tax” charges between US$0 to US$16 for non-Asean departures.
  • South Korea imposes a US$9.37 departure fee on all air travelers.