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Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Survey: 4 of 10
Japanese traveling
abroad have
visited isles

Changing vacation habits,
though, means that Hawaii will
need to do more to keep their
business, the JTB study says

By Russ Lynch

Of all the Japanese who have taken a vacation overseas, four out of 10 have been to Hawaii at least once, according to a new detailed survey by that country's biggest travel booker, Japan Travel Bureau Inc.

That's equal to about 25 million people, or roughly 20 percent of Japan's total population, JTB says.

JTB But the JTB report on Japanese overseas travel habits also has a lot of other information showing that it won't be easy for Hawaii to maintain those numbers in the face of changing Japanese travel habits and strong competition from closer, cheaper destinations.

To begin with, the Japanese are now seasoned Hawaii travelers and that means they are likely to be looking for something different.

The recent state report on visitor spending already made that clear in showing that today's Japanese visitors spend less and are more likely to shop only for themselves than for others back home.

The JTB report, based on a survey of 2,440 adults who traveled overseas in 1999, says 40.3 percent of the Japanese travelers to Hawaii, on average, are on their third or more trip to the islands.

Last year, 1.85 million Japanese tourists visited Hawaii, down 7.5 percent from about 2 million the 1998.

In general, JTB says, those who have been to a destination before are more likely than first-timers to make their own plans for what to see and where they will go than they are to take packaged tours.

They have what JTB calls a "much clearer sense of purpose" and high on their wish lists are "visiting natural and scenic attractions" and "visiting historical and cultural sites" or "theater, concerts or movies."

Other changes listed in the JTB report that could affect Hawaii include a fall-off in overseas travel by those aged about 20, particularly men, and a shift in emphasis to a greater desire to experience a destination's sights, culture and foods and less desire to go shopping.

Some other tidbits:

Bullet Married people aged 18-39 want to go to only one or two destinations on a foreign trip.
Bullet Males in general want to stay away as long as possible on a trip, even if it means going away less frequently, while females want a lot of trips, even if the stays are short.
Bullet Married women over 40 are looking for luxury accommodations and top-class meals and do not have much interest in roughing it.

JTB also listed some newer classes of overseas traveler and said that although these segments are small so far, they are growing and bear some attention.

One - also mentioned by JTB Hawaii's President and CEO Takashi Kitamura in a recent meeting with Hawaii reporters - is overseas trips by high-school students. This is a market Hawaii could do more to tap, Kitamura said.

Japan's Ministry of Education says 737 schools in Japan sent students overseas on such trips in 1998, the latest year for which figures are available. That produced more than 161,000 travelers, about 24 percent more than 131,000 in 1996.

Hawaii has already seen another of the new trends, families and friends traveling along with brides and grooms for overseas marriage ceremonies.

Hawaii is still tops with the Japanese travelers. When the survey participants were asked to list a few of their favorite places, Australia received 52.8 percent of the votes, followed by Hawaii (50.8 percent) and then European destinations. Asked to pick just one favorite, however, 13.2 percent chose Hawaii, beating Australia, at 13 percent, Canada, 8.3 percent, and European destinations, well under 8 percent.

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