Irasshai! Japan is Open to Tourists Again, But What Does Americans’ Travel Intent Actually Look Like?

With Japan reopening its borders to tourism on October 11, 2022, for the first time since the initial lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were curious about how interested American travelers are in visiting Japan in the next year.

First, Destination Analysts wanted to understand how many American travelers are aware that Japan is now open for travel. Just over one-third said yes (35.7%), with higher awareness among Asian-Americans (57.0%), urban residents (42.6%), and American travelers who reside in the U.S. West region (41.3%),

In terms of how appealing Japan is as a leisure destination for Americans, overall just over one-third (36.6%) of travelers find it to be appealing or extremely appealing. Similar to the segments that had a higher awareness of Japan’s reopening, Japan’s charm is felt particularly by Asian-American travelers (63.1%), urban residents (48.5%), and U.S. West region residents (45.1%). Those with an annual household income of $200,000 or more (49.2%) and younger travelers (Gen Z: 48.6%, Millennials: 47.0%) were also more likely than the average American traveler to say Japan is an appealing destination.

One-fourth (25.1%) of American travelers are interested or extremely interested in visiting Japan in the next year. Interest levels are highest among Asian-Americans (55.1%), Gen Z (40.2%), travelers with an annual household income of $200,000 or more (39.3%), and urban residents (38.2%).

Those American travelers were most interested in visiting Japan during the summer months, particularly in June (29.4%) and May (21.6%) (see Fig. 1). Tokyo is at the top of their list (78.5%), followed distantly by Osaka (34.6%) and Kyoto (31.0%) (see Fig. 2). Among this group, Asian-American travelers were much more likely to say they are interested in visiting Sapporo (21.2%, +11.4 percentage points greater than total interested travelers).

When asked what reasons drive their interest in visiting Japan for leisure, half of Americans selected the food and cuisine (50.3%) (see Fig. 3). This was followed by history and heritage sites (40.6%), though for Baby Boomer travelers history and heritage sites were actually the top reason for their interest in Japan (53.8%). 38.9 percent of American travelers also selected arts and traditional culture.

We found that LGBTQ travelers have a greater interest in Japan’s culture from both the traditional side (60.6%, +21.7 percentage points greater than total interested travelers) and the pop culture side (44.7%, +20.8 percentage points greater than total interested travelers). There is also notably higher interest in the unique activities Japan has to offer, such as visiting onsen (Japanese hot springs) or climbing Mount Fuji, among the LGBTQ traveler segment (58.5%, +22.0 percentage points greater than total interested travelers).

But interest in a destination is only one piece of the puzzle. We also examined how motivated Americans are to actually take a leisure trip to Japan in the next 12 months. When asked to rank their motivation to visit Japan in the near term on a scale of 1 to 10, just 15.3 percent of all U.S travelers ranked an 8 or higher. However, Asian-Americans (37.3%), higher income travelers (29.1%), and urban residents (28.8%) were significantly more likely to say they were highly motivated to take a leisure trip to Japan in the next year.

For further insights into prospective American travelers to Japan, such as what kind of media they are consuming, what travel planning resources they use, and what other destinations they are interested in visiting, please reach out to our research team at info@destinationanalysts.com.

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The State of the American Traveler in December 2022—Holiday Travel Inspiration & the Importance of Deals and Rewards

Over half of American travelers say they are taking a vacation or other trip this holiday season, and the majority of these holiday travelers are still open to ideas and destination inspiration. Meanwhile, as many Americans feel a recession looming, deals, discounts and rewards programs are gaining importance.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. The key findings presented below represent data from over 4,000 American travelers collected in November 2022.

First…Happy Holidays! We wish you and yours much joy and merriment this season.

Americans Looking to Travel this Holiday Season—Still Open to Ideas
The holiday travel season is upon us and well over half (55.1%) of Americans plan to take at least one leisure trip between now and January 7th, and 29% plan to take two or more such trips in this timeframe. Although 47.4% of these holiday travelers plan to stay in the home of a friend or relative on these trips, 58.4% will also in paid lodging (23% at a 3 or 4-star full-service hotel, 15.3% at a budget hotel, 11.4% at a 5-star hotel and 8.9% in peer-to-peer lodging). On average, the duration of these holiday trips will be 5.3 days.

American’s top holiday season travel priorities include spending time with family (81.4%), relaxation (69.7%) and of course enjoying family traditions (67.7%). In addition, nearly a quarter will prioritize meeting new people (24.8%) and/or traveling outside the United States (23.9%). While 48.4% say these holiday trips are being taken to celebrate a specific holiday, 42.3% say at least one of their trips will be purely for vacation or a weekend getaway.

In terms of the types of destinations Americans plan to visit, small towns (32.7%) and cities (32.5%) will be most common followed by beach destinations (23.1%), state/regional parks (15.0%) and theme parks (14.5%). And in good news for destination marketers, over half (52.4%) of holiday travelers say the destinations they plan to visit this holiday season have not yet been firmly decided.

Deals, Discounts & Rewards Gain Importance as Travelers Get More Careful with their Money
Fewer Americans now say that inflation in consumer prices has led them to cancel an upcoming trip. Now, only 28.7% say they have, which is down nearly 8 points from June. Similarly, the proportion of Americans who say they will take fewer road trips this winter if gasoline prices don’t come down has dropped to a low of 52.4% (which is down 16 points from its peak in June). Additionally, when we look at what has deterred Americans from traveling more than they would have otherwise preferred in the last 6 months, fewer are now citing the expense of gas (41.1%; down 6 points from July), airfare being too expensive has also declined (26.3%; down nearly 5 points since October) as has concerns over the possibility of flight cancellations (9.7%; down 6 points from August).

Despite these improvements, nearly 60% of Americans still expect the U.S. to enter an economic recession sometime in the next 6 months and therefore 64.7% of all travelers say they are being careful with their money now. In this vein, nearly three-quarters (74.4%) of Americans agree that travel deals and discounts are more important to them now compared to 6 months ago. Our latest survey also found that nearly 31% of Americans have used credit card points/rewards for travel-related purchases in the past 12 months alone, with the most common purchases being airline tickets and hotel stays (52.7% and 50.8%, respectively). Far fewer of these credit card point redeemers have used their rewards for upgrades to their hotel room (13.3%) or airline seat (11.7%).

International Travel Interest & Japan’s Reopening
Currently, 29.8% of Americans say they are likely to travel abroad in the next 12 months (which is down 4 points compared to October) with Italy, Canada, the U.K., Mexico, France and Japan being the most desired foreign destinations currently. And because Japan just reopened their borders to tourism for the first time since the start of the pandemic, we further gauged American’s interest in visiting this island Asian nation. Just over one-in-three Americans (35.7%) said they were aware of Japan’s border reopening and one quarter (25.1%) say they are interested in visiting in the next 12 months. Of these interested parties, their top drivers of aspiration for visiting Japan includes food and cuisine, history/heritage sites, arts and culture, unique activities, adventure and being a bucket list destination.

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The Important Work of Making Travel Accessible

 

During Destination Analysts’ November 2022 webinar update on The State of the American Traveler, we sat down with representatives from Wheelchair Travel, Accessible Travel Solutions, as well as Travel Oregon and Visit Mesa to discuss broadening accessibility to travel experiences and increasing the industry’s ability to be more welcoming to all. You can watch in the video above and read below for our key takeaways from this important discussion.

According to John Morris of Wheelchair Travel, while disabilities vary between people, and everyone has different needs, so it is important for destinations to reach out to their travelers to see how they can meet those needs. This is especially key when considering that seniors overlap significantly with the disabled population, and accessibility comes into play for both groups.

Some of the main barriers in accessible travel in the current landscape include misunderstandings at the decision-maker levels about the accessible travel market and the definition of accessible travel. It is challenging for destination leaders to evaluate the opportunity and understand how best to move forward. The need for expertise is part of this obstacle, and this in turn feeds into resources. Oftentimes, organizations do not have an accessibility expert and there is limited knowledge around what tools exist, according to John Sage of Accessible Travel Solutions.

It is also an awareness issue, says Morris. There is a lack of understanding of the size of the community of travelers with disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26% of the U.S. population has a disability. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 12% of the population with a disability use a wheelchair. But there is a need for awareness around the opportunities that exist in the marketplace. Because of the lack of accessible environments, travelers with disabilities are less likely to be visible in the population of travelers visiting destinations, which exacerbates this issue. But in fact, there is an opportunity for destinations to really make a foray into that market, given the size of the population and the universal desire to travel that is shared by all travelers, regardless of their background.

Our panel shared resources that are available to organizations for support in their efforts to become accessible destinations and businesses. Among these, Travelability is a wonderful resource, according to Visit Mesa; the organization has a summit next summer that is highly recommended. Visit Mesa also recommends using community resources such as Facebook Groups to learn directly from travelers with disabilities about what their pain points are. Travel Oregon suggests turning to city managers, as cities often have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators who can provide information on accessibility in the community. The local community of people with disabilities can also be a wonderful resource.

We want to take the opportunity to once again thank Wheelchair Travel, Accessible Travel Solutions, Travel Oregon and Visit Mesa for sharing their learnings and best practices with the greater travel industry and for their incredible efforts in expanding travel’s accessibility.