Japan has ended speculation suggesting its national tourism authority would offer 10,000 free flights to the country in 2012.
While the initiative, designed to boost consumer confidence in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, did initially appear to have government backing, funding has now been withdrawn.
“We realise this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction.
“We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aide those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights,” said Kylie Clark, head of public relations and marketing, Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).
After the initial proposal was reported, interested guests from around the world sent messages to JNTO saying they would like to participate in the programme.
However, the places most popular with visitors to Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Osaka, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Okinawa – were outside the earthquake and tsunami affected areas.
“Please do not let the fact that there will be no free flights put you off visiting Japan,” added Clark.
“There are lots of great deals available and Japan is ready and waiting to welcome back visitors more warmly than ever before.”
The initial announcement can be seen here.