Japan Is Adding A New Tourist Departure Tax

Filed Under: Travel

Over time we see countries both add and remove barriers to visiting. On the plus side, we’re seeing more and more countries remove the requirements for visitors to get visas, or in the case of other countries, they’re making it possible to visit at all, when previously that wasn’t the case (like in Angola and Saudi Arabia).

Conversely, we’re seeing more countries and airports add taxes and fees for passengers. I see both sides of it, of course. Countries want to generate as much revenue as possible, and charging each visitor a fee of some sort has the potential to increase revenue a lot. However, studies have also shown that additional airport taxes have an impact on tourism. It might not sound like a lot, but for countries with super cheap airfare and a lot of ultra low cost carriers, a $10 fare different across the board can have a big impact on demand.

Along those lines, Nikkei Asian Review is reporting that Japan will be adding a new departure tax of 1,000 Yen (~10USD) as of January 7, 2019. They anticipate that this will raise an additional 40 billion Yen annually (~370 million USD), which will be used to fund tourism expenses.

This fee will apply to both Japanese and foreigners, and will be payable for departures by air and sea. This will be collected as part of the ticket cost, so you won’t have to queue to pay this, but rather you’ll likely just see the cost of tickets increased.

Japan’s vice minister of finance hasn’t yet revealed how this revenue will be used, which I find a bit strange. Usually when tourism fees like this are added, they do so with a specific purpose, but it seems like they’re just viewing this as an easy opportunity to increase revenue. Many are hoping that the money will be used to increase staffing at immigration, or to accelerate the introduction of biometric verification at the airport.

For most of us, paying an extra $10 on a ticket out of Japan won’t make a huge difference. However, it’s certainly an unwelcome change all around, and has the potential to impact demand on ultra low cost carriers (though in fairness, Japan isn’t a cheap country, so the fee should impact demand here less than elsewhere).

What do you make of Japan’s new tourist fee?

  1. Japan’s fiscal accounts are a mess, so it’s easy to see why they’d try to squeeze out revenues where they can. As you implied though, these sorts of fees can backfire if they lead to a reduction in tourism and the economy experiences a net loss. Being able to balance this in determining the price of the tax will be key. Still, Japan is experiencing an enormous tourist boom and I see no reason why it won’t become increasingly popular even with the tax. I have not met a single person who didn’t speak glowingly about a tourist trip to the country. In addition, I presume Japan would prefer to dissuade the kind of budget traveler who would be most affected by this sort of limited tax in favour of higher income, higher spending foreign travelers who won’t care.

  2. it’s just like all of the taxes that US jurisdictions charge to use airports in order to pay for stadiums and other infrastructure. Since they know the visitors can’t vote them out they are an easy cash cow. I’d gladly exchange a $10 departure tax for the fuel surcharges so many airlines are still getting away with charging despite the drop in fuel costs.

  3. Understandable. Japan’s problem isn’t not enough tourists, it’s an ever increasing number of tourists. So they may as well cash in.
    Also @Justin Ross Lee, agreed, US$10 for Japan is definitely worth it, a bargain even.

  4. I travel to only cheap places. They are as much and have as many facilities and so much cheaper.

  5. I’d gladly pay 20$ if municipalities in Japan would install trashcans on the streets.

    Japan will be hosting the Olympics. Millions of foreigners, who have no concept of sorting garbage into burnable, recyclable, high density plastic, low density plastic, etc will converge on Japan.

    With only private enterprises providing trash cans for their customers (JR rail, various combini), Combine it with Japanese love to individually package everything, from manju to senbei, and then triple-gift-wrap it if you bought it at any half-way decent department store, that ends up being alot of trash.

    Japanese will have a rude awakening, when people will get frustrated with not being able to dispose of their trash, and start dropping it.

  6. @Stany

    When I first visited Japan, I would say I’d have to agree with you.

    However, there are trash cans – they’re just a lot more discrete than they are in the US or other places, and can sometimes be hard to find. Usually you’ll find burnable / nonburnable / plastic / aluminum refuse bins (small usually) right next to the ubiquitous vending machines which are everywhere. Or near Family Mart, Lawson, or 7/11 which are everywhere

    Given the insane cleanliness of the streets, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. I just looked up why they don’t have trash cans everywhere and it actually dates from the Sarin gas attacks on Tokyo in the mid 90s

  7. @Stany:

    I was told this was done to, oddly, discourage litter. The thought being if there’s no bin in which to place it litter, people won’t purchase items (think 7-11, Lawson, etc. foodstuffs) and eat while walking thus eliminating the need to throw anything away at all. This, in turn, would, reduce the general amount of packaging in circulation outside stores or grocery bags and making it to streets in the first place. That’s why all the convenience stores has bins right inside or directly outside their doors. I always found that logic incredibly circuitous, but I can confidently attest to litter never being a problem in the several years I was there. So maybe it works?

  8. Just FYI: Nobody should be eating or drinking while walking, ever. I have not once seen a person (of a proper social class) in the Japanese or French capitals do this. When Americans or Brits do it, it’s appalling.

  9. Internationally tourism to Japan has roughly tripled in the last 5 years. I think they’ll be just fine without the few people (if any) who are deterred from visiting by a $10 tax.

  10. @Stany

    It’s inevitable that a bunch of drunk foreigners will drop litter everywhere, it will only be used as more anti-foreigner propaganda on tv. They do have a point though, if you see someone breaking the law or doing something stupid there’s a 99% chance it’s a foreigner.

  11. Perhaps to help them fund Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Either way, for an extra $10? Sure. I trust the Japanese will actually use that money for the good of its own citizens and tourists.

  12. I actually assume a $0 dollar difference wouldn’t make much of a difference lucky in the first paragraph ;). Joking aside I can’t see a $10 difference really making much of a difference on individual decisions other than maybe some super short flights from china or korea where flights to other destinations $10 dollar difference might be a good percentage (10% or so)

  13. Trash cans were removed shortly after the sarin gas attacks by Aum Shinrikyo. At the time, it was seen as an effort to reduce potential hiding places for other weapons. Why they haven’t made a return is a good question.

  14. When a taxing authority says that the money will be used for such-and-such, it is naive to believe it. For example, all US state lotteries say the money will be used for education or something else noble; but money being fungible, they just cut existing funding for education (or something else) to make up for it. That way, they haven’t old a lie; but it is a lie. So if the Japanese aren’t saying that the money will be used for specific purpose, that just means they are honest.

  15. They could spend it on finally better staffing KIX (Osaka) screening for transit passengers. Literally the world’s slowest and most incompetent for over 15 years running. Where do they even find these kids who do this same job all day every day with snail-like inefficiency?

  16. @Dom:

    I had actually heard that, too, but from non-Japanese. So I didn’t really know who to believe. Plus, other countries have gotten around that by installing trash bins with clear plastic bags instead of solid containers. I always wondered by, if the sarin attack reasoning were true, Japan hadn’t just converted to the plastic bag version of sidewalk bins. Enquiring minds want to know!

  17. When I first started going to Japan in the 1980s you had to buy a Y2000 stamp to leave Japan. It is much easier if it is built into the ticket price. Public facilities are generally excellent in Japan. The plentiful and pristine public restrooms are alone worth it.

  18. @Justin Dead-on. Their debt-to-GDP ratio is atrocious and the interest payments alone will cripple them in a few years. They sell more adult diapers than baby diapers and there is an epidemic of elderly with no family who intentionally get arrested for petty crimes so they can live in a jail where they have food and shelter.
    I’m half-Japanese and it freaking pains my soul whenever I visit and take a hard look at the way Japan is going…

  19. “The new duty – which some have coined the “sayonara tax” – would be used to boost tourism infrastructure nationwide, promote off-the-beaten-track destinations in rural Japan and launch global tourism campaigns.”

    The Straits Times
    Published Nov 12, 2017

  20. @Andrew
    How dare you, filthy imperialist, committing such an abominable act and propagandistically trumpet such shame over our pious ears.

    Remember that, if it wasn’t for those classless American and Brits, you would still be drinking Weissbier from wine goblets. #remember

  21. $10 is nothing.

    Japan is not really as expensive as many other countries, such as the coastal US.

  22. @Franco-Japonaise: why not? Americans can take it to extremes, but I don’t see anything wrong with eating an ice cream while walking on a warm summer day, and it’s a very New York thing to do to eat a slice of pizza while on the move.

    And the way you emphasize “of a proper social class”, making it clear this has nothing to do with litter and everything to do with being a stuck-up elitist who thinks that because you think something’s the right way to do it, anyone who does something different is inferior to you. “FYI” should be used for actual information (or, in other words, facts), not opinions.

  23. @Stany somehow I think Japan will survive 16 days of the Olympics. They get plenty of tourists as is and this doesn’t seem to be a problem. If you want to do a social experiment go to Tokyo, stand in the metro station and “accidently” drop a small slip of paper. The most likely reaction you will get is a couple of japanese people running up to you and frantically pointing at the piece of paper on the ground. I kid you not.

  24. @ChampagneSocialist More tourists are not a problem for Japan. The Japanese government are trying to increase the number of tourists and there are many ad campaigns in the US to try to get people to travel to Japan.

  25. You state as something as an aside that Japan is expensive. This is not so, unless you seek out predictably expensive options, like luxury hotels catering with expensive western-style restaurants, an so on. I always seem to return with plenty of spare yen. Unlike the USA, tipping is considered an affront; an uncouth insult in fact.
    Now for expensive, nothing matches many cities in America, NYC being a standout.

  26. @Justin – Well you just have! Japan is the weirdest country I’ve ever been to and is incredibly expensive. I didn’t particularly enjoy my visit, didn’t see much you can’t see elsewhere and have no desire to ever return…

  27. @Callum Congrats Callum. You just felt so compelled to contrast Justin’s comment with your experience. My sincere condolences.

  28. Japan government are aware now that the majority of their tourist are Chinese mainland. The Chinese go there with loads of money and bad attitude shopping and touring. The Japanese government is taxing them and we too have to pay for them too.
    Surely Japan is not a cheap country, if you know how you can save. But generally its an expensive country to visit and

  29. Who cares about the stupid tax.
    japan is a dump anyway.
    Not to mention the place is a radiation ticking bomb.

  30. Slightly off topic, but I was quite surprised when last week I was asked to pay $2.50 or so airport tax for my HKG-DFW systemwide upgrade on AA. The agent said it’s a new policy at HKG – same as the luxury tax at LHR (of course the rate is much more reasonable).

  31. The likes of ‘Sam’ simply don’t get Japan. The country will be much better off without him and his pig-ignorant attitudes. The Japanese are wonderful people, and treat everyone with the utmost respect and courtesy, unknown in America. They are tolerant of foreigners indiscretions, although they may draw the line at Sam’s hog-like attitudes. Best to stick to Atlantic City and other cultural hotspots where you’ll fit right in Sam. Sheesh……..

  32. Is this new tax apply to transiting passengers also, or only to those whose final destination is Japan who then leave later?

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