Covid effects: 35% people in Japan say they will never travel again

People in Japan are least inclined to travel again with the 35 percent saying they do not intend to travel again, shows a survey conducted by Morning Consult – a global intelligence company to find their views after the Covid pandemic.

The survey which covered 16,000 adults in 15 countries also showed that Asia has the highest number of hesitant respondents as South Korea and China followed Japan by 15 and 14 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, the US is the joint third with a similar percentage of 14 but the European countries have the least concerned citizens. The UK has 8 percent respondents who say they will never travel again. The numbers for Germany are 6 percent and 4 percent each for Italy and Spain.

The findings came as data shows people are traveling more often and for longer periods of time, with many planning big bucket list-style trips this year.

But the survey unearthed this group of people, quietly emerging from the pandemic with little to no interest to travel anymore, according to Morning Consult’s “The State of Travel & Hospitality” report.

The survey asked about “any leisure travel” and did not differentiate between domestic or international travel plans, said Lindsey Roeschke, a travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.

Respondents were surveyed twice this year: in April and July, she said. During that time, travel confidence increased among other Japanese respondents, including those who said they plan to travel in the next three months (+7 points) as well as the next 12 months (+4 points).

“But in both surveys, “the number of ‘never travelers’ … stayed the same in Japan,” said Roeschke.

Moreover, some 45 percent of Japanese respondents said they intend to travel in the next year, compared to 65 percent in China and 66 percent in South Korea.

Even with travel intentions on the rise, Japan’s rates remain far behind other countries, including those in North Asia.

By contrast, 77 percent of German respondents said they plan to travel in the next 12 months.

No overseas travel

Many nations saw a travel explosion after borders reopened. But it is not the case in Japan.

People “don’t want to go overseas” and are choosing to “travel inside the country,” Dai Miyamoto, the founder of travel agency Japan Localized had told CNBC in May.

But according to Tabimori Inc MD Tetsuya Hanada, finances are an even bigger factor. “It could be said that the pandemic has reduced the number of Japanese who decide to travel abroad, but I think the weaker yen has had a greater impact.

Some 386,000 Japanese travelers went overseas in August — a far cry from the estimated 2.1 million who traveled abroad in August of 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Hideki Furuya, a professor at Japan’s Toyo University, says one reason is the culture’s “preference for risk aversion”. Peer pressure will also keep travelers close to home if the risk of contracting Covid-19 is high, he added.

“It could be said that the pandemic has reduced the number of Japanese who decide to travel abroad, but I think the weaker yen has had a greater impact,” he told CNBC Travel.

Not a new phenomenon

In 2019, only 23 percent of Japanese citizens held passports — the lowest rate among G7 nations, according to Nikkei Asia.

Following a rapid rise in international travel during the 1970s and 1980s, the number of Japanese citizens traveling abroad has largely stagnated since the mid-1990s.

Roughly the same number of Japanese citizens traveled overseas in 2000 and 2017 — about 18 million — despite the timeframe being one of incredible growth for international travel worldwide. The reasons which are cited are language barrier and the lack of consecutive holidays.

Other nations

Beyond Japan, other travelers say they too have lost their luster for travel. The British artist known as Miles Takes told CNBC Travel that “international travel still seems a while away” for him. 

“In the past, I loved to travel and as recently as the beginning of this year, I have travelled to Singapore and Poland from London,” he said. But “both these trips triggered anxiety which has since gotten a lot worse.”

A combination of things turned him off from traveling, he said, including Covid, travel disruptions and having a medically vulnerable partner.

Singaporean Daniel Chua says he’s in no rush to travel for “a mixed bag of reasons.” But Covid isn’t one of them, he added.

“I’m not afraid of the virus,” said Singaporean Daniel Chua, shown here in Edinburgh, Scotland. He told CNBC Travel he’s less inclined to travel, in part, because of its impact on the environment.

“I’m not afraid of the virus,” said Singaporean Daniel Chua, shown here in Edinburgh, Scotland. He told CNBC Travel he’s less inclined to travel, in part, because of its impact on the environment.

A work trip to Europe in June exposed him to a “mess” of flight delays and staffing shortages, he said. Additionally, he said virtual meetings are a more efficient use of work time.

Chua also cited sustainability as a disincentive to travel, calling it a “core belief in my work and personal life.”

But he acknowledged he’s surrounded by people who are traveling. “I don’t talk to them about why I don’t travel, not to burst their bubble or to, you know, be the party pooper amidst all of this celebration,” he said. “For me, it’s a personal decision.”

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