Business travel is an established business custom in Japan and is one of the three pillars of the tourism industry, together with leisure travel and travel for visiting friends and family. In Japan, leisure travel for touristic purposes is the leading segment concerning the most important KPIs, such as the number of trips undertaken, and the total expenses recorded in the industry. Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, business travel comprised the second largest source of expenditure in the tourism industry. However, there was a shift in travel behavior during the pandemic which saw a considerable decline in overall travel, as well as a shift towards travel for the purpose of homecoming or visiting friends. This led to business travel expenditure for overnight travel and same-day travel alike to place last among the three segments. The ongoing digitalization at the workplace and COVID-19-related restrictions on travel had a considerable impact on business travel performance. The share of Japan’s population that went on overnight business trips or one-day business trips declined to the low single-digit spectrum during the pandemic. Despite this setback, business travel seems to be an integral part of the business world in Japan and is likely to rebound as the pandemic is brought under control.
Business travel characteristics
Business travel can be categorized as overnight travel and same-day travel. As to be expected, the average cost of overnight business trips is significantly higher than that of same-day business trips. Regardless of the type of trip, expenditure on transportation comprises the largest share of expenses during business travels. When on overnight trips, the majority of people travel via bullet trains (shinkansen) and stay at Western-style hotels. A different noteworthy characteristic is the gender discrepancy of business traveling in Japan. The vast majority of business trips are undertaken by men, for same-day travel and overnight travel alike, reflecting the gender imbalance in Japan’s working environment. Another defining characteristic constitutes the brevity of most business trips, which are typically short in length. Moreover, unlike in the case of leisure travel, most business trips are undertaken alone or with (business) colleagues.
The government of Japan is invested in making Japan a leading hub for international conferences, planning to thereby attract business to Japan. To achieve this, the policy named “Promotion of MICE Hosting and Attraction” has been put into action. The promotion of MICE, which is an acronym for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, is one of the main policies regarding international tourism in Japan. It is mainly concerned with the business side of tourism and engages in manifold activities. Among others, it offers support for organizing entities, attracts participants, and provides the necessary knowledge for the organization and promotion of events. Hitherto efforts seem to have paid off, as the number of international conferences hosted, and the number of foreign participants at the events was on the rise until the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that. With the pandemic still lingering on, it is uncertain when the hosting of international conferences will return to its pre-pandemic state.
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