Wednesday, July 8, 1998

Japanese cut back
on travel overseas

The latest survey
doesn't bode well for Hawaii's
tourism industry

By Russ Lynch


The number of Japanese traveling overseas this summer is expected to decline for the first time since 1980, raising concerns in Hawaii's tourist industry.

Japan's biggest travel agency, Japan Travel Bureau, checked its travel offices throughout Japan and concluded that 3.17 million Japanese will travel abroad this summer, down 2.4 percent from last summer's bookings.

Hawaii is still the No.1 foreign vacation destination for the Japanese, but the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau says it will have to fight to maintain that share.

The poor condition of Japan's economy is keeping more Japanese at home and there is also fierce competition from low-cost rivals such as destinations in Southeast Asia, travel officials say.

The slip in the value of the yen against the dollar is also making Hawaii and other U.S. destinations more expensive for vacationing Japanese.

In the first five months of this year, Japanese travel to Hawaii was down 2.2 percent at 808,950 arrivals, compared with 827,480 in the equivalent period of last year, according to the latest HVCB figures.

And the decline worsened in May, with a 6.3 percent drop from May 1997.

Hawaii is fortunate in having a rise in tourist traffic from the mainland that so far has made up for the loss of the Japanese, but serious promotions will be needed in Japan, th HVCB said.

Japan normally produces about 30 percent of Hawaii's total visitor traffic.

The HVCB said that its travel industry partners in Japan are aggressively promoting summer travel to Hawaii, in an effort to stem the decline.

The HVCB also has plans to work with travel companies in a major promotion in Japan in September.

Despite the drop in overseas travel, Hawaii managed to attract 13.1 percent of all the Japanese who did travel abroad in May, an increase from 12.2 percent in May 1997.

The drop in overseas travel would be the first since 1980 when Japan's economy was reeling from a steep rise in oil prices, JTB said.

The only other decline in this oil-dependent nation was recorded in 1974, following the first oil shock.

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