Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Japanese tourists traditionally flock to Hawaii
for the Golden Week holiday season. This year,
however, bookings are down 1.7 percent.

Golden Week loses
luster this year

JTB survey points
to a downturn

By Russ Lynch

Japanese travel to Hawaii during the annual Golden Week holidays in Japan will be down this year, despite a slight overall increase in overseas travel by Japanese, according to a new survey by Japan's largest travel business, JTB Corp.

JTB During a mixture of holidays and weekend days off that runs from April 26 through May 6, 58,000 Japanese have Hawaii as their holiday destination, the JTB survey showed. That is down by 1,000 travelers, or 1.7 percent, from the 59,000 who had booked by this time last year, JTB said.

But Japanese are traveling despite concerns about the economy, said JTB, and the big travel company said some of the reason for the Golden Week dip is a growing awareness among Japanese in recent years that if they travel before or after national holiday periods they can get a less expensive, less crowded vacation.

More than 5 percent of 2,200 persons interviewed about travel plans at 200 JTB locations in Japan said they will not travel during Golden Week because they prefer to travel outside the peak period.

However, there are also some negative economic factors, which Hawaii travel industry executives say have already begun to show. The weakening yen is making it harder for Japanese to spend money in America and more than 28 percent of those surveyed said they would like to reduce their travel expenses, JTB said. The latest state figures available, for January and February, show total Japanese arrivals in the islands unchanged from last year at just over 297,000 for the two months.

Shorter trips closer to home are popular this year, with Korea expecting the most Japanese visitors of any country in the Golden Week period, 88,000, up 14.3 percent from last year's holiday period.

One reason is the way the holidays fall. The overall Golden Week period starts Thursday, April 26, and ends Sunday, May 6, making 11 days in all. Some will arrange days off on the first Thursday and Friday, use a national holiday Saturday and a another holiday Monday and go back to work Tuesday, May 1, after being off for five days. Many will take the first Saturday through Monday off, arrange two more days off work, then get three holidays in a row and a Sunday, taking nine days altogether before going back to work Monday, May 7.

The nine-day possibility helped push overseas travel by Japanese in Golden Week up by 0.8 percent to a total of 569,000. That is a small increase from 564,000 in last year's spring holiday period, but still is the third record Golden Week in a row, JTB said.

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