Japan has introduced a departure tax for people leaving the country from 7 Jan onward. The country will start collecting the tax of ¥1,000 (S$12.50) per person leaving the country by aircraft of shift regardless of their nationality.
The law, which was enacted in April last year, will see a levy being imposed on travellers on top of their airfare, ship fare, and travel fees.
With the number of visitors to Japan soaring in recent years, reaching 30 million in 2018, it’s estimated that the levy will generate about ¥6 billion (S$74 million) in the fiscal year 2018 to March 2019 and ¥50 billion (S$624 million) in the fiscal year 2019.
This revenue will be used develop the country’s tourism bases and improve immigration procedures. Specifically, the funds will be used to set up facial recognition gates at airports, multilingual information boards, and cashless payment terminals for public transportation.
Only people who are leaving Japan within 24 hours of their arrival and children under 2 years of age will be exempted from this departure tax. Also, flight tickets to Japan purchased and issued before 7th Jan 2019 will also be exempted.
Initial reaction has been one of concern. One argument is that visitors are already spending money in Japan during their time there, so many see this tax as a way for Japan to milk visitors out of more money.
The thing is, departure tax is not a new concept. In fact, many countries already have such a levy in place under different names. In Malaysia, it used to be called the ‘airport tax’ which has been renamed ‘Passenger Service Charge’. In Australia it’s called the Passenger Movement Charge while in the UK it’s called Air Passenger Duty (specifically for those travelling by air).
Netizens in Singapore have pointed out that the Japanese departure tax of approximately S$12.50 is actually quite a small sum. You probably won’t even notice the difference as the charge will be include in your overall ticket price.
In fact, netizens have said that this amount is nothing compared to the levy charged by Singapore on its travellers to fund the new Change Terminal 5.
The Transport Ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced in February that passengers beginning their trips from Changi Airport will now have to pay a levy of S$10.80 per person. On top of that, the Passenger Service and Security Fee was increased by S$2.30 on 1 July 2018 and will do so again every year until 2024 to fund the new terminal.
Unfortunately for Singapore, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) strongly objected against the attempt to charge travellers to help fund the construction of the new Terminal 5. The IATA stressed that it is ‘strongly against any pre-financing of any infrastructure’.
So in Singapore, all these charges combined means that passengers travelling via Changi Airport will have to pay a total of S$47.30 in airport fees until the next increase in April 2019. That is significantly higher than Japan's new departure tax of only S$12.50.