Japanese tourism suppliers are gearing up for what is expected to be their busiest Golden Week since the start of the pandemic, but the struggling industry continues to struggle as domestic travel has yet to recover to pre-levels. the pandemic and international arrivals still blocked.
Some 16 million people are expected to travel to Japan between April 25 and May 5 this year – the Golden Week period which includes a series of national holidays, according to a March survey by JTB Corporation.
The figure represents a 168% year-on-year increase, largely due to last year’s national state of emergency which encouraged residents of Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures to stay at home during the holiday period.
In fact, Japan had two dark years of Golden Week, as the holiday season in 2020 was also disrupted by a national state of emergency.
The industry welcomes the expected uptick in travellers, even noting that the volume could be higher as the survey was conducted in March when 36 prefectures were under special measures to curb the spread of Omicron, which have since been lifted. Despite everything, the number of visitors fell by 33% compared to the data for Golden Week 2019.
Among respondents who will travel, the trend will be towards longer trips, with a 4% increase in stays of two nights and longer.
Last year, most trips were within prefectures or to neighboring prefectures, but now rural areas as well as Tokyo and Osaka are very popular.
Private car use and rental is down year-over-year, while Shinkansen and air travel are expected to increase.
As of April 14, Japan Railways Group reported 1.34 million reservations on Shinkansen and other trains in the April 28-May 8 period, up from 66 percent year-on-year.
Japan Airlines has scheduled 98 more flights on its domestic network from April 28 to May 9, despite 1,745 domestic flights during the rest of April and 619 flights for the rest of May.
Respondents reported no change in planned travel spending, but 37% said they wanted to cut travel spending over the next 12 months amid economic uncertainty, in another possible hit to domestic tourism.