Surefire Way to Boost Tourism to Japan, South America: Free Airfare

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Cherry blossoms in Japan.

If you give away free flights, they will come. A South American airline and Japan’s tourism bureau are attracting the attention of the media, not to mention travelers, by giving away airline tickets by the planeload.

Last week, Chile’s LAN Airlines “pulled an Oprah” (in the words of travel site Jaunted) by surprising 200 patrons at a New York City restaurant with free roundtrip tickets to South America. More tickets are being given away this week via Twitter in a LAN Airlines contest that ends Thursday, October 13.

(MORE: Japan to Give Away 10,000 Free Flights to Tourists in 2012)

A flight giveaway to Japan, meanwhile, is even more impressive. Tourism numbers in Japan have been abysmal since the earthquake and tsunami occurred in March, which was then followed by more perfect storm-like crises including nuclear power plant emergencies and an increasingly depressed global economy. To give the local economy a boost, the Japan Tourism Agency plans on giving 10,000 international travelers free roundtrip airfare to the Land of the Rising Sun in 2012.

(MORE: Why Does a ‘Free’ Flight Cost $527?)

Exact details regarding the flight giveaway haven’t been released yet, but would-be travelers will be asked to submit online applications describing why they want to go to Japan and which regions and cities they’d like to visit. All told, the Japan Tourism Agency is expecting to give away airfare to international travelers worth about $14.3 million.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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