Japan has one of the world’s most powerful passports, but comparatively few citizens – about 15 per cent – take advantage of it. That has prompted one airline to try to do something about it.
Peach Aviation Ltd., a low-cost carrier ferrying people to Taiwan, South Korea and other Asian destinations, as well as cities across Japan, has been offering travellers with new or renewed passports 5,000 yen (US$35) in travel credit for their flights, in a monthly lottery that lasts through December 22.
Japan’s passport gives visa-free entry to 192 global destinations, according to the latest Henley Passport Index. The country lost the top spot to Singapore earlier this year, after leading the list for five straight years. Only 21.8 million valid Japanese passports were in circulation at the end of 2022, according to the latest available figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Due to greater-than-anticipated demand, a second campaign is now under consideration, according to Miyabi Nanya, who works on marketing strategy at Peach, a subsidiary of ANA Holdings Inc.
No matter how much airlines and others promote the appeal of overseas travel, Nanya said there’s always the hurdle of “not having a passport when the time comes, plus it takes time and money to get one”.
Japan has always had low levels of passport ownership, especially compared with other countries. In the United States, 160 million people, or roughly half of the population, held passports as of 2023, according to the State Department. In Britain, 86.5 per cent of residents hold passports.
One reason fewer Japanese hold passports is because there are plenty of domestic, enjoyable travel options in the island nation, according to Yoko Hayano, chief consultant at JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co. “To a certain extent, people are satisfied without having to travel overseas,” she said.
Higher costs due to inflation overseas and the weak yen, as well as the war in Ukraine and instability abroad, may have dampened demand for overseas travel, on top of the Covid pandemic, according to the Japan Association of Travel Agents. The group ran a campaign to defray the cost of getting a passport through September, and believes that more measures will be needed to stimulate demand.
Japan tends to be slower than other countries when it comes to a recovery in travel following an outbreak of an infectious disease, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, according to JTB Tourism Research’s Hayano. “But it will recover eventually,” she said.
Source : SCMP