As outbound travel numbers from Japan to the United States remain stuck in a rut, the Japanese travel trade is sustaining a recovery in overall outbound travel volume and, at the same time, migrating to online travel bookings away from traditional travel distribution channels by consumers.
Agencies have begun to “go experiential” to hold on to their customers. Some notes from a recent item by the Nikkei Asian Review:
- H.I.S. reserves an entire uninhabited island off the coast of Cairns, Australia for its package tour customers. That is, travelers have an option to visit an inhabited island off the Australian city of Cairns where sea turtles can be found. The company reserves the entire island so customers can have the exclusive experience all to themselves. H.I.S. also reserves early morning hours at a local zoo for an option to visit and experience the facility exclusively.
- In Singapore, JTB reserves after-hours slots at an aquarium for tour participants so they can have a private dinner while viewing fish.
The actions taken by the two giant travel agencies come as overall outbound travel is staging a recovery from a four year slump. In 2016, the number of Japan’s outbound travelers grew 5.6 percent to 17.1 million, breaking the consecutive declines from the 2012 peak of 18.4 million.
Despite the recovery, JTB’s sales from its overseas travel business dropped 3.8 percent from a year ago in the year ended this past March. At the same time, Nikkei reported, the total value of travel reservations made on the Japanese website of Expedia, the world’s biggest online travel agency, for the first time exceeded $1 billion in 2016, underscoring the growth of online reservations in a country whose residents have been more resistant than those of other nations in making the shift to online travel booking.
Regardless of the increase in overall outbound travel, the number of visitors making the long-haul trip to the United States have hardly budged (a six-tenths-of a-percent change) in during the five year-window of 2012-2016.