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PATA TRAVEL MART 2006

Is individualism transforming Japan outbound?

REPORT-HONG KONG-PATA TRAVEL MART 2006: The Japanese penchant for the latest gadgetry – expenditure on phones is double that of international travel – has extended into a taste for distinctive tours and fresh destinations. This…

REPORT-HONG KONG-PATA TRAVEL MART 2006: The Japanese penchant for the latest gadgetry – expenditure on phones is double that of international travel – has extended into a taste for distinctive tours and fresh destinations. This according to Evolution Tourism Institute Director Mr Tenshin Kobayashi, who added: “Japanese are losing interest in ‘traditional’ travel products.”

Mr Kobayashi joined Marriott International Global Sales Vice President-Japan Mr Victor Osumi and Travel Journal Chief Operating Officer Mr Kiyotaka Kaburaki on an interactive panel about Japanese outbound tourism at PATA Travel Mart 2006 in Hong Kong.

Mr Kobayashi said the travel preferences of Japan’s 37 million passport holders are increasingly shifting from “passive” to “active”; “fast” to “slow”; “general” to “specific”; “short” to “long”; “look” to “experience”; “famous” to “unique”; “money” to “time”; “shopping” to “memory”; et cetera.

Mr Osumi agreed. Today’s generation of traveller is looking for customised and individualised products with simple-is-best originality, he said.

Significantly, Mr Osumi thinks Japanese are becoming more individualistic. Japanese now pay more attention to their individual needs rather than society’s expectations, he said. Self-priority is cool in Japan!

Mr Osumi highlighted what’s fashionable among Japanese travellers. Original and simple are considered a new trend among luxury and premium travellers, he said. Heritage and culture is also considered classy and elegant.”

In line with a long-standing global trend, Japanese consumers are increasingly interested in LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability).

Being fit and healthy is considered cool, said Mr Osumi. Exercises like yoga, boxing and dancing are becoming lifestyle trends in the market, and consumers are increasingly into ‘organic’ foods.

Eco-friendliness has also become trendy in Japan, according to Mr Osumi. There is increasing awareness in the well-being of the environment, and consumers are more conscious of environmental impacts when they buy products, he said.

According to Mr Kobayashi, the percentage of international trips relative to the size of Japan’s population, at 14%, is low compared to developed world counterparts: Korea (ROK) (18%); US (20%); Chinese Taipei (34%); New Zealand (43%); Germany (87%); and the UK (108%).

However, Mr Kobayashi reaffirmed that Japanese who do travel are big spenders at US$2,200 per traveller, compared to the Americans’ US$1,060; Germans, US$980; Koreans (ROK), US$980; and Brits, US$840.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Strategic Intelligence Centre statistics show a modest 1.2% average annual growth in international outbound trips from Japan to Asia Pacific destinations since 2001. However, the market still offers a significant 17 million outbound trips.

According to Mr Osumi, speed and flexibility are the name of the game for travel and tourism marketers trying to keep up with lifestyle trends in Japan.

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