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What’s next for Japan’s wealthier – but older and frailer – travellers?

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Offline geemong

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What’s next for Japan’s wealthier – but older and frailer – travellers?

With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, tourism would seem to be off the agenda for rich Japanese.

When the International Air Transport Association is predicting that any recovery in air traffic will take at least five years, few travellers anywhere can confidently plan holidays. Even when it can be done, many wonder what fun can there be in travelling with extra health checks and concerns about medical facilities in far-flung resorts?

While people in North America and Europe have these worries, the Japanese are at a particular disadvantage. Their island home is far from popular holiday spots. Hawaii, the most favoured beach destination for Japanese, is more than seven hours away. And while all developed countries’ populations are ageing, Japan is ahead of the pack. This is especially true of rich Japanese, as they are generally older than average and so tend to have more pre-existing health problems.

But an answer could be at hand – in the form of luxury leisure travel at home. There are opportunities in reviving old traditions of hospitality and devising new ones. Domestic tourism boomed in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s, when basic coastal and mountain resorts were developed before Japan grew richer and its citizens started travelling abroad. Domestic tourism was then seriously neglected. Even spectacular booms in skiing and golf faded away. Hotel owners struggled to maintain crumbling properties.

In the last decade, the lower and middle parts of the domestic travel market have been boosted by incoming Chinese tourists. While they have revived business, their sheer numbers have also triggered fears about overcrowding in tourist hotspots such as Kyoto.

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