Asia Minute: Japan’s New Tourist Tax

Jan 9, 2019

Credit RGB256 / Wikimedia Commons

Many countries tax tourists when they leave. The United States has done it for years — including international visitors leaving Hawaii. But in one Asian country, this is the first week for that practice.

For the first time in nearly thirty years, there’s a new tax in Japan.

It’s a departure tax, a thousand yen, about nine dollars already priced into tickets for airlines or cruise ships.

By the way, that’s a little cheaper than what the United States charges — which is about 18 dollars. The U.S. gets travelers coming and going by the way — there’s also an international arrival tax.

Japan’s new charge is a lot cheaper than in some other countries — the United Kingdom charges nearly 200 dollars for some travelers. Australia’s “passenger movement charge” is about 43 U.S. dollars.

In the Philippines, it can be a little more than 13 dollars – 700 Philippine pesos — but you do have to pay in cash.

Not everyone thinks the tax is a good idea. The International Air Transport Association for one says that it can hurt tourism growth.

As for Japan, the government estimates the new tax will raise about 460 million dollars a year — money that will have a very specific destination: the “tourist infrastructure.”

Credit Junpei Abe / Flickr

That includes improved facial recognition systems to speed up the immigration process and other moves to, in the words of the Japanese government, “create a more comfortable, stress-free tourist environment.”

All of which is of course ultimately aimed at boosting the number of tourists.