Monday, July 12, 1999

Japan summer travelers
bypassing isles

A JTB survey finds many
Japanese are opting for cheaper
destinations closer to home

By Russ Lynch


Hawaii can expect a further drop in travel from Japan this summer, as Japanese travelers choose lower-cost destinations closer to home, according to a new survey.

While the number of Japanese planning to travel overseas between July 1 and Aug. 31 is up, spending on trips outside Japan is expected to be down, according to the Japan Travel Bureau Inc. survey.

Based on a survey of 2,200 potential travelers throughout Japan, JTB estimates that 348,000 plan come to Hawaii during July and August. That's down 4.9 percent from 366,000 last year, said JTB, Japan's biggest travel agency.

Korea, however, showed an 8.6 percent increase, with JTB estimating that 390,000 Japanese planned to go there this summer compared with 359,000 last summer.

"Korea, with travelers able to take three-day tours (including two overnight stays, for well under 30,000 yen ($250), continues to experience buoyant demand due to the continuing favorable exchange rate for the yen against the won," the JTB survey said.

China also got a boost, for similar reasons. JTB said 310,000 Japanese planned a China trip, 5.8 percent more than last year's 293,000. Travel to Guam and Saipan is expected to go up 1.6 percent, to 252,000 tourists from 248,000 in the summer of 1998.

While the JTB survey showed an increase of 4.4 percent in those intending to travel to North America in general -- 429,000 this summer vs. 411,000 last summer -- that doesn't necessarily show a preference for the mainland over Hawaii, according to the JTB figures. The numbers are cumulative, meaning that the mainland could be a stop after or before Hawaii or other destinations.

Total overseas travel by Japanese this summer is expected to reach 3.14 million, up 1.7 percent for the first increase in two years.

However, JTB said, the expected average spending on an overseas trip is expected to drop 0.2 percent to the equivalent of $1,687 a person, from $1,690 last summer.

Part of the drop is because of reduction in package tour prices. For example, JTB said package prices for its Look Tours summer specials for overseas trips are down an average of 3.7 percent from last year. Also, U.S. currency exchange rate shifts are working in favor of the yen, with the dollar running nearly 20 yen cheaper than it was last year, JTB said.

While Hawaii visitor count results for June are not out yet, state figures for the first five months of the year showed eastbound arrivals in Hawaii running 8.8 percent below 1998. The eastbound arrivals are led by the Japanese but also include visitors from other Asia-Pacific points.

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