Japan to fund airport biometrics with new travel tax

Japan’s government is planning to apply a tax of 1,000 yen (roughly US$9.25) to air travel and boat tickets to raise an estimated 50 billion yen ($450 million) in funding for its airport facial recognition initiatives, ZDNet reports.

The tax is the first to be introduced in the country in 27 years, according to the report, and will affect all Japanese and foreign visitors or those with stopovers exceeding 24 hours. There were 30 million visitors to Japan in 2018, but the number is expected to spike to 40 million with the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The government says the facial recognition systems planned for Japan’s airports will speed up immigration procedures and provide better assistance in foreign languages. NEC announced late last year that its facial recognition technology, which is also being used for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, will be deployed to the country’s busiest airport, Narita International, for a trial starting in April. Customers will be able to use NEC’s “electronic procedure gate” in the customs inspection area after passing through immigration.

Acuity Research Principal Maxine Most says 2019 is a critical tipping point for airport biometrics, as the market expands beyond e-gates and kiosks, which themselves are expected to generate $1.3 billion over the next five years with deployments around the world.

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