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Domestic tourism in Japan - statistics & facts

The travel and tourism industry in Japan has been subject to careful micro-management by the Japanese government. In an economy that has been relatively sluggish in the past three decades, income generated through tourism has come to be seen as a promising strategy for economic growth. The travel and tourism industry is composed of domestic tourism, foreign inbound tourism, and Japanese outbound tourism. Domestic tourism contributes the most to Japan’s tourism GDP. Travelers undertaking trips for leisure and recreational purposes are the main target group identified within domestic tourism, as they generate most of the revenue. While expectations regarding inbound tourism are growing, Japanese domestic tourists are considered essential to revitalizing the countryside and economically weakened areas.

What are the most common travel patterns in Japan?

Domestic tourism data in Japan is commonly divided into travel length, featuring overnight travel and one-day travel, as well as travel purpose, which differentiates between travel for leisure, business, or visiting relatives and friends. Overnight travel accounts for most of the domestic tourism expenditure in Japan and is also slightly more common than same-day travel. On a different note, the majority of trips, regardless of whether they are long or short, are motivated by recreational purposes. Owing to the working culture in Japan, in which long absences for leisure reasons are uncommon, much of the overnight travel is performed during Japan’s major holiday seasons, such as during the Golden Week in May, or around the Bon Festival in August. One-day travel is a popular leisure activity undertaken during the weekends. The well-developed public transportation network in Japan offers good alternatives to personal vehicles, enabling young people without a driver’s license or a car to travel. The broad range of rail, water, and air transport availabilities coupled with well-organized schedules make visits to tourist attractions in neighboring prefectures possible.

COVID-19 and tourism in Japan

The travel industry was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with the accommodation, dining out, and similar service industries severely underperforming. Following the first declaration of a state of emergency in April 2020, borders were closed to foreign tourists, while Japanese citizens were requested to avoid unnecessary travel and remain at home. The lockdown helped to keep COVID-19 infections low but damaged the above-mentioned industries. To boost worn-down industry sectors and revitalize the tourism industry, the Japanese government announced the implementation of the “Go to Travel” campaign. The initiative started less than two months after the lifting of the initial state of emergency and targeted domestic travelers. Through the state subsidy of travel expenses, the campaign was expected to stimulate travel demand and positively impact numerous service industry segments. The campaign succeeded in stimulating domestic travel, as close to 90 million overnight stays that made use of the program were recorded between July and December 2020. The “Go to Travel” campaign was halted by the end of December because of growing COVID-19 positive cases. As of August 2021, the campaign is still on standby because Japan kept on struggling with controlling the pandemic and had recently issued its third COVID-19 related state of emergency declaration for some of the major cities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, inbound tourism disappeared and despite efforts by the Japanese government to stimulate domestic tourism, travel and expenditure strongly underperformed compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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Inbound tourism

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Domestic travel and tourism in Japan

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Domestic tourism in Japan - statistics & facts

The travel and tourism industry in Japan has been subject to careful micro-management by the Japanese government. In an economy that has been relatively sluggish in the past three decades, income generated through tourism has come to be seen as a promising strategy for economic growth. The travel and tourism industry is composed of domestic tourism, foreign inbound tourism, and Japanese outbound tourism. Domestic tourism contributes the most to Japan’s tourism GDP. Travelers undertaking trips for leisure and recreational purposes are the main target group identified within domestic tourism, as they generate most of the revenue. While expectations regarding inbound tourism are growing, Japanese domestic tourists are considered essential to revitalizing the countryside and economically weakened areas.

What are the most common travel patterns in Japan?

Domestic tourism data in Japan is commonly divided into travel length, featuring overnight travel and one-day travel, as well as travel purpose, which differentiates between travel for leisure, business, or visiting relatives and friends. Overnight travel accounts for most of the domestic tourism expenditure in Japan and is also slightly more common than same-day travel. On a different note, the majority of trips, regardless of whether they are long or short, are motivated by recreational purposes. Owing to the working culture in Japan, in which long absences for leisure reasons are uncommon, much of the overnight travel is performed during Japan’s major holiday seasons, such as during the Golden Week in May, or around the Bon Festival in August. One-day travel is a popular leisure activity undertaken during the weekends. The well-developed public transportation network in Japan offers good alternatives to personal vehicles, enabling young people without a driver’s license or a car to travel. The broad range of rail, water, and air transport availabilities coupled with well-organized schedules make visits to tourist attractions in neighboring prefectures possible.

COVID-19 and tourism in Japan

The travel industry was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with the accommodation, dining out, and similar service industries severely underperforming. Following the first declaration of a state of emergency in April 2020, borders were closed to foreign tourists, while Japanese citizens were requested to avoid unnecessary travel and remain at home. The lockdown helped to keep COVID-19 infections low but damaged the above-mentioned industries. To boost worn-down industry sectors and revitalize the tourism industry, the Japanese government announced the implementation of the “Go to Travel” campaign. The initiative started less than two months after the lifting of the initial state of emergency and targeted domestic travelers. Through the state subsidy of travel expenses, the campaign was expected to stimulate travel demand and positively impact numerous service industry segments. The campaign succeeded in stimulating domestic travel, as close to 90 million overnight stays that made use of the program were recorded between July and December 2020. The “Go to Travel” campaign was halted by the end of December because of growing COVID-19 positive cases. As of August 2021, the campaign is still on standby because Japan kept on struggling with controlling the pandemic and had recently issued its third COVID-19 related state of emergency declaration for some of the major cities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, inbound tourism disappeared and despite efforts by the Japanese government to stimulate domestic tourism, travel and expenditure strongly underperformed compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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