This year appears to be shaping up as a banner year for the travel industry, Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan 31) reports.
By virtue of deciding on May 1 for the date on which Crown Prince Naruhito ascends to the chrysanthemum throne, this year's annual string of consecutive holidays and weekends -- colloquially referred to as Golden Week or GW for short -- will extend from Saturday, April 28 to Sunday, May 6, a total of 9 days.
According to the home page of major travel company JTB, departures from April 27 are nearly booked solid, with tour packages of 4 nights, 5 days to Hawaii retailing for around 300,000 yen. Demand for Europe is equally solid.
"We've received triple the number of reservation requests as for 2018," says a PR spokesperson for JTB. "Ocean cruises, both in Japan and overseas, are in particularly high demand. Our package tour departures of eight to 10 days in length are completely sold out. Because of this, destinations that are popular with Japanese, such as Hawaii and some European countries, are nearly impossible to book during this period."
People determined to get away are signing up for package tours hooked up with charters that visit beach resorts like Guam or Phu Quoc, a large island at the southwest extremity of Vietnam.
But as these are also quickly selling out, aspiring travelers will need to move quickly.
"There are still vacancies at such popular destinations as Taiwan and Hong Kong, so that's another alternative," JTB's spokesperson said, adding that there's also a rush on domestic trips, with demand for packages to Hokkaido and Okinawa up by 2.5-fold from normal years. "We expect things to start heating up for other domestic reservations from now," the spokesperson advised. "To avoid disappointments, people should start making plans soon."
The extended GW period is not the only factor expected to affect demand for travel.
"Between September and November, 12 cities in Japan will be hosting Rugby World Cup events, and this will likely have a favorable impact on demand for travel," a source in the travel industry is quoted as saying.
An in-house estimate by JTB projects 290,900,000 travelers on domestic trips this year, up by 1.5% from 2018. The number of Japanese traveling abroad are projected to reach 19,100,000, a 1.1% increase. Foreigne visitors to Japan, meanwhile, will rise by 12.3% to another all-time record of 35,500,000.
An economic analyst tells the magazine that the expected number of foreign visitors this year is expected to soar to 40 million in 2020 thanks to Tokyo's hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics.
"In 2018, expenditures by foreign visitors came to around 4.4 trillion yen, and that figure can be expected to rise to 5 trillion yen in 2019. But the given the current conditions, the prospects for reaching the government's set target of 8 trillion yen in 2020 looks difficult," he remarked.
The analyst says certain things might still be obscuring the picture for travel over the next 11 months.
"Yes, a portion of the operators are saying their sales for the Golden Week are strong across the board, but the 10 consecutive days off will mean a drop in earnings for a majority of people who aren't employed as regular company staff or as part timers."
That figure, Shukan Jitsuwa reminds its readers, is round 37% of total wage earners, or 20.36 million workers in 2017.
"This year the figure of workers will be about the same," the analyst continues. "If they can't make up for the shortfall of income during the long Golden Week holiday, the shortfall might possibly drag down consumption for the remainder of the year.
At this point predictions are hard to make, but despite the jump in overseas bookings, there's still the possibility the extended holiday to celebrate the ascension of the new Emperor very well might have negative repercussions for the nation's economy over the long run.© Japan Today