Japan: Many say they will never travel again

Japan: Many say they will never travel again

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People wearing face masks wait on the platform of a station in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, the first day that COVID-19 rules were eased. EPA-EFE Franck Robichon

Over the past few decades, many Japanese with money to spare have opted to spend their money on vacations far away. From Honolulu to Venice, London to Australia’s Gold Coast, the Japanese are popular as big spenders who enjoy exploring different cultures.

But not anymore.

A survey last year by global intelligence firm Morning Consult found that more than 35 percent of Japanese have no intention of taking another vacation, either at home or abroad. That figure far exceeds the responses given by respondents from 15 other countries in the survey, including 15 percent of South Koreans who said they would never travel again.

Some 14 percent of US residents said they would not take a vacation in the future, followed by just 8 percent of Brits, 6 percent of Germans and 4 percent of Spaniards and Italians who said the same.

Signs of slumping demand for Japan’s overseas travel were backed by domestic travel giant JTB Corp, which forecast in its 2023 outlook that 8.4 million Japanese will vacation abroad this year, about 40% of the 2019 estimate.

Concerns about Yen Weakness

The study identified the main reasons for the sharp drop in the number of people packing their bags for overseas destinations in Japan this year, with a weaker yen the biggest factor for about 22% of respondents. The currency particularly affects popular dollar destinations such as Hawaii and the Pacific resort islands of Guam and Saipan.

Others said they may not be able to take extended vacations, making it more difficult to go on vacation abroad, while many more said they remained concerned about the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic in different countries.

Many people are also blocked from traveling to many destinations due to geopolitical concerns, with much of central and eastern Europe, as well as Taiwan and mainland China, becoming less popular.

“Vacations have never been important to me, especially going abroad,” said Tomoko Oono, a housewife from Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo. Honeymoon in 1980.

“My husband travels for work and some of my friends go abroad with family, but it always seems like a hassle,” Ohno told DW. “Packing, deciding what to bring, traveling by plane, using different money, staying in A place where you don’t know where anything is. It’s stressful.”

“I have a lot of other hobbies – I like to cook and do crafts – so my favorite time to get away from the house is a night or so,” she adds.

few people have passports

A man wearing a face mask stands in Shiba Park when the landmark Tokyo Tower is lit up at dusk in Tokyo, May 12, 2020. Philip Fong, AFP/File

Ashley Harvey, a travel marketing analyst who has worked in Japan’s travel industry for more than 15 years, told DW that such attitudes are widespread in Japan, where only 23% of people have passports, the lowest among the G7 countries. s country.

“Even before the pandemic, Japan only had about 20 million outbound tourists a year, a sad figure for a country of 126 million people,” he said.

“Right now, we’re seeing a number of small factors that actually make it harder for Japanese to travel, including stagnant wages making travel more expensive, and the depreciation of the yen against other currencies.

“But at the same time, I sympathize with this distaste for foreign holidays, because Japan is such a wonderful destination in its own right,” he said. “Hokkaido has world-class skiing, and the Okinawa archipelago to the south has some fantastic beaches. It has all the excitement of Tokyo and Osaka, plus the ancient history of Kyoto.”

“Japanese people don’t need passports,” he added. “On the other hand, staying in Japan means they haven’t broadened their thinking or effectively promoted Japan’s ‘soft power’, which I think is unfortunate.”

In a New Year’s address to the industry, Hiroyuki Takahashi, chairman of JTB Corp and the Japan Association of Travel Agents, declared that “the most important theme in 2023 will be how to achieve a recovery in overseas travel.”

“There are external factors such as a weak yen and rising travel costs, but the fundamental problem is the mentality of customers,” he said. The key, he said, was keeping travelers safe and healthy and convincing them of the value of traveling abroad.

Industry Highlights

Perhaps the brightest spot in the industry’s rather bleak outlook is the younger generation of travelers, or those who have not been able to physically go abroad for the past three years but are now eager to travel. “Both men and women in their 20s are very willing to travel abroad,” according to the JTB Corp study.

Emily Izawa, a 20-year-old college student living in Kanagawa prefecture, booked a flight to London later this month to visit friends in the UK and said she couldn’t wait to travel again.

“It’s been over five years since I last went abroad and I’m really looking forward to being in another country, speaking English, going shopping and seeing new things,” she said. “I’ve traveled in Japan for the past few years and that’s been fun, but going to another country is the real travel.”

Editor: Leah Carter

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