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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Japanese staying closer to home

By Mari Yamaguchi
Associated Press

TOKYO — Wary of terrorism and weary of economic hard times, Japanese tourists are turning to shorter summer holidays that are cheaper and closer to home.

The new trend is likely to be felt by the international tourism industry from Hawai'i to Paris as Japanese cut back on overseas travel and see more of their own country.

According to the most recent figures released by the Land and Transportation, the number of Japanese booking foreign trips through Japan's top 50 travel agencies dropped 6 percent in May from the previous year to 350,651 people. In contrast, visitors to domestic destinations rose 4.6 percent to 2.07 million.

The divergent trends are largely blamed on the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, which have discouraged many from heading overseas.

Bookings for overseas tours for July and August, the peak season when air fare and hotel rates are often set higher, are especially slow, with 10 percent to 20 percent fewer than the previous year, according to news reports.

Guam, Hawai'i and the rest of the United States are especially unpopular. Some overseas destinations that are closer to Japan, however, have seen an increase, including Australia, New Zealand, China and other Asian destinations, according to the Land and Transportation Ministry survey. Meanwhile, domestic tours have seen bookings climb by as much as 15 percent from last year, according to media reports.

In response to slumping overseas travel, some agencies have introduced bargain packages. Nippon Tourist now sells a family package for Hawai'i that offers a 50 percent discount for children.