International travel is less than half of what it was before the Corona
This is the first summer vacation after the COVID-19 crisis, and many people are planning trips. Domestic travel continues to be popular due to nationwide travel support and other factors. However, overseas travel remains less than half the pre-Corona level.
Japanese travel abroad, and the reasons for the slow recovery are often cited as concerns about infectious diseases and soaring airfares in the beginning, and now the weak yen and high prices in local markets. In addition, not a few people say that they cannot afford to enjoy their leisure time in a luxurious manner due to the rush to raise prices of daily necessities and utility bills in Japan.
On the other hand, overseas tours are popular, especially among middle-aged and older people who have money and time to spare, and there are waiting lists for some destinations. The “gap” between the young and the working class, who say that overseas tours are too expensive and that they cannot afford to go nowadays, is widening.
More than 90% of the passengers on flights to and from Japan are foreigners…
Since September 2010, when Japan’s border control measures were almost completely lifted, the ban on overseas travel has been virtually lifted. At the end of last year and during this year’s major holidays, the “rush of Japanese departing for overseas travel after a long absence” was widely reported on TV and other media.
At that time, some travelers interviewed at airports said, “It cost 1 million yen for a couple to travel to Thailand” or “2.5 million yen for a family trip to Hawaii. Although these seem extremely expensive, they conveyed the enthusiasm of the travelers who wanted to go abroad even if it cost a little more money than they had to endure with the COVID-19 crisis.
Even now, however, not many Japanese are going abroad one after another. I have traveled to Corona more than 10 times since then, and every month in 2011, and everywhere I have felt the “small number of Japanese travelers. On many flights to and from Japan, more than 90% of the passengers are foreigners. The automated gates at airports for Japanese immigration and entry are always empty.
The reason why we dare not “go there”…
JTB recently released its 2011 summer vacation travel trends (July 15-August 31). The number of overseas travelers is estimated to be 1.2 million, which is only about 40% of the 3.03 million in 2007.
The reasons for this are as follows: “Although there is an increase in willingness to travel overseas, destinations that are relatively close to Japan for a short period of time are popular due to high prices, a weak yen, and anxiety about going overseas for the first time in a long time,” and “the recovery trend, albeit gradual,” JTB’s overseas products are popular in Hawaii, South Korea, Taiwan, Guam, and Singapore, and the company is looking to the future. Following Hawaii in first place, Europe came in second, Australia and New Zealand third, and the U.S. mainland sixth in terms of destinations.
Why don’t people want to go abroad now? The top three reasons were “I still don’t feel safe in terms of security and health (e.g., infectious diseases),” “immigration procedures are troublesome,” and “the yen is weak and prices are high. Some said that their passports had expired and that they had rediscovered the appeal of domestic travel.
The reason why “full recovery” is far from…
Japanese people’s desire to travel abroad has not declined. However, the hurdle to a “full recovery” is currently as high as it can be.
The first thing that everyone who has traveled abroad after Corona always mentions is the high cost of living in the country. Moreover, the depreciation of the yen to the dollar, which is close to 150 yen per dollar, has added to the problem. Many people who went abroad at the beginning of Corona, thinking that they would be willing to go out on a limb this time and pay the high cost of travel, but were hurt by the cost of local accommodation, are actually saying, “The yen is likely to continue to depreciate, so I’m going to take it easy this summer and just go on a domestic trip.
In addition, there is a rush of price hikes in Japan, and there are also flickering signs of further tax hikes. Salaries have not risen significantly for most of the working-age population, and concerns about the future have not disappeared.
In addition, the COVID-19 crisis, which led to the widespread social campaign to “refrain from overseas travel,” is still lingering in some cases. For example, there are still a few people who do not have the courage to take the initiative in their own companies and are still waiting to see what happens, hoping that someone else will go ahead of them, and there are also a few who are hesitant because they think, “If I contract Corona there, it will delay my return and cause trouble for the company.
What are the destinations popular among middle-aged and older retirees with “waiting lists”?
On the other hand, a travel agent told me about a destination that has been so popular that there is a waiting list. When asked where it was, the answer was “Egypt.
A basic 7-day tour to Egypt costs 700,000-800,000 yen when Corona first opened, 300,000-400,000 yen for a connecting flight, and 600,000-700,000 yen for a direct flight, which is scheduled to resume this fall. The cost of fuel surcharges, airport taxes, and local visa fees are added to this amount, making it even more expensive for a single participant. Participants are mainly middle-aged retirees or honeymooners. Although the number of tours to Egypt is still smaller than before Corona, there are already many waiting lists or confirmed tours in the fall and early winter, which is the best season for sightseeing in Egypt.
Hawaii’s popularity is also strong. Japanese is easily understood locally, the climate is pleasant and stress-free, and many repeat visitors come back. However, in fact, the high cost of living in the area is quite severe. The fact that ANA and JAL are selling round-trip flights from Japan to Hawaii for less than 100,000 yen in total is not only due to the inability of these routes to attract visitors to Japan, but also because of the high cost of living. Even if you can go there once after Corona, you may not be inclined to revisit most recently unless you have enough money to spend after that.
Europe is a popular destination for those who want to visit sooner or later, but the flight times have become longer due to the situation in Ukraine. The situation has become even more difficult for the working generation, who have difficulty taking long vacations on a regular basis.
Not “I don’t want to go,” but “I want to go, but I can’t.”
The number of international flights to and from Japan is returning to pre-Corona levels. However, this is largely due to the popularity of Japan as a place where “everything is cheap.
An earlier travel official asserted that “overseas travel will not fully resume unless the working generation, from people in their 20s to those around 60 years old, move on. The working-age population still accounts for a large percentage of the total population. They are physically active, curious, and likely to become repeat travelers, and in the long run, they have high latent needs. If this generation is concerned about the eyes of those around them even after the Corona holidays, and if travel expenses are also tight, it could affect not only the most recent summer vacation, but also the overseas travel market in the future.
Japanese people’s enthusiasm for overseas travel has by no means cooled. Many are not saying “I don’t want to go,” but rather, “I want to go, but I can’t.
Interview, text, and photos (unless otherwise noted)： Aki Shikama / Aki Shikama