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Business trends

Japan's just privatized airports grounded from the get-go

Coronavirus wipes out inbound tourism, and with it all rosy plans for growth

New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido: Passenger traffic was down more than 70% in March. (Photo courtesy of the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau)

SAPPORO, Japan -- For rural Japan, privatization of local airports was supposed to be the magic formula to bring in tourists from around the world, revitalizing regions that had lost growth momentum to an aging and shrinking population. 

A steady flow of inbound tourists was thought to reduce the risk for private entities to run the airports. Sales generated from the airport buildings, operated by retail professionals as opposed to bureaucrats, would enable airports to reduce landing fees, in turn attracting more low-cost carriers from across Asia -- not just China and South Korea, the two main sources of tourists.

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