Japan unveils $19.51 billion plan to subsidise holidays for tourists

It's an announcement that sounds almost too good to be true.

But under a bold tourism plan to lure visitors back to Japan, the government has launched a new campaign that will help offset travel costs for visiting tourists.

According to The Japan Times, Hiroshi Tabata, the head of the Japan Tourism Agency, said the $19.51 billion plan hopes to attract foreigners by offering to subsidise half of their travel expenses.

While little detail of the programme has been announced, the government says it could be in place as early as July (despite travel bans to Japan still in place).

The announcement follows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifting the state of emergency in Tokyo and four other areas where it was still in place.

Abe said the lifting of the state of emergency did not mean the pandemic was over but was in response to the country's success in battling the coronavirus. To date, the country of 126 million people has had only 16,433 infections and 784 deaths.

Japan was at the centre of one of the first big outbreaks outside China, when the coronavirus swept through the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

A total of 3711 passengers and crew members were trapped on board as the virus spread quickly. When the Diamond Princess arrived into Yokohama on February 3, 2666 passengers – including 1281 Japanese nationals – and 1045 crew members were aboard. Of them, 705 had the virus.

Just last month, Sicily, south of Italy, opened a similar programme to lure visitors back to the island.

The offers, first reported by The Times, will be available on the island's tourism website.