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Transportation

ANA offers foreign tourists cheap flights to Japan's parts unseen

Tax breaks and upgrades at smaller airports lay groundwork for heavier traffic

ANA will offer the discount tickets in time for travelers visiting Japan for the Summer Olympics. (Photo from company's facebook account)

TOKYO -- All Nippon Airways will debut discount airfares taking foreigners to parts of Japan they rarely see, tapping a tax break totaling 40 billion yen ($365 million) designed to boost tourism.

The Japanese airline, part of ANA Holdings, will offer discount tickets starting in 2020 that allow travelers to make multistop trips between regional airports over a given period. These tickets, available only for foreign visitors, will go on sale in time for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Other carriers are considering similar initiatives for foreign travelers, such as extending the deadline for advance-purchase discounts in order to encourage trips around the country.

The discounts will be supported by Tokyo continuing the reduction in Japan's aviation fuel tax, as the government has extended this relief into the next fiscal year starting in April. Programs that draw visitors to Japan are expected to benefit from the 40 billion yen in tax savings.

About 3.5 million tourists entering Japan also took domestic flights in 2018, and the government aims to lift that figure to 4.5 million in 2021.

Furthermore, about 45 billion yen in public and private money is slated for improvements to domestic airports through 2021. Amenities will include automated luggage drop-offs at check-in counters, as well as Wi-Fi service near boarding gates.

The number of travelers entering Japan through airports outside of major cities grew 11.7% in 2018 to 7.58 million, accounting for one-quarter of all arrivals.

But smaller regional airports are unable to keep up with the luggage accompanying this influx of travelers, the transport ministry says, and this crunch hampers departure and arrival schedules. The ministry will continue to support upgrades to aircraft cargo handling.

Airlines and the transport ministry look to boost overall domestic travel to 648,000 flights by 2021, from about 628,000 in 2018. Partnerships between big-name airlines and regional carriers will be part of that initiative.

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