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Have you heard about this?…

The Wall Street Journal and USA Today have both written about it: Japan’s Tourism Agency is planning to give away up to 10,000 free flights to Japan.

This plan is undergoing approval right now. But if Japan’s parliament approves it, and you’re selected, you could see yourself whisked off to Japan as early as next summer.

There is a small catch: you need to write about your experience.

If you’re a travel writer (or thinking about becoming one), then this is a big opportunity.

Japan’s Tourism Agency is looking for people who are willing to share their experiences in reports that will be published online. The hope, of course, is that these reviews will inspire other travelers to visit Japan again.

Since the earthquake and tsunami disaster, and resulting nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant earlier this year, tourism has taken a big hit. Visitors dropped over 60% in April (compared to the same period in 2010). And, while the decline has eased up since April, this past August, the number of foreign visitors dropped to 32% of last year’s figures.

Celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, have encouraged tourists to visit Japan. And, the U.S. Department of State’s travel alert confirms that, as long as you’re not within a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, health and safety risks are low.  

Still, more confidence is needed. Japan’s Tourism Agency needs real people. Real stories. They need you. And, they’re willing to invest in people to get those favorable reviews.

The Wall Street Journal says, if the program is implemented, “it will cost about ¥1.1 billion ($14.3 million). That’s roughly 10% of the tourism agency’s overall 2012 budget appropriation request, and an indication of how serious the tourism slide may have become. The national budget is expected to be approved in parliament next March.”

If Japan’s parliament does approve it in March 2012, it means you can see applications for these free flights as soon as April.

If you apply, you’ll need to state your case – and prove why you’re a good candidate for a free flight. The Japan Tourism Agency wants to know how you might spend your visit to Japan differently, than just going to Disneyland or shopping in Tokyo. They’re looking for “new ideas” on how to experience Japan.

If you do apply, and you’re selected, you’ll know by early summer.

If you’re interested in this offer, here’s how to stay up-to-date with the plan’s progress:

***Periodically, visit the website of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). JNTO says, “If the initiative is confirmed and put into operation, Japan Tourism Agency will officially announce details on this website.” Click here for their website.

***If you’d prefer to receive instant notifications on this offer and other related news, you can join your local Japan National Tourism Organization on Facebook (click here for their website)

Keep in mind, too, this is a free flight only. You’ll have to pay for food, hotel, and other costs. And, the yen is near an all-time record high versus the dollar. Not to worry…

As a travel writer, you can often reduce (and sometimes eliminate) those costs by offering to write articles about the restaurants you’ll visit, your hotel accommodation, and attractions you’ll see.

What’s more, if you get started in travel writing now, you’ll have a chance to get some bylines. Having these credentials (your name on a published travel piece) can only help increase the likelihood of getting selected for a free flight.

This is not only a great opportunity to see Japan…but also to play a role in rejuvenating local tourism.

If you apply, and get selected, do let me know.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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