Golden Week Bookings Spark Hopes For Leisure Spending

TOKYO (Nikkei)–Leading travel agency JTB Corp. predicted Friday that this year’s Golden Week vacation period will see a year-on-year rise in people traveling within Japan as well as those going abroad, pointing to signs of a recovery in vacation-related spending.

Travelers heading overseas are expected to surge 10.1% on the year to 500,000. This rise — the first in three years — is attributed to the yen’s increased strength against major currencies, with South Korea and Australia seen as especially good bargains. Travelers to these countries are up 32.4% and 7.7%, respectively.

JTB sees domestic travelers increasing 2.9% to 21.4 million, rising for the first time in two years, thanks to reduced highway tolls and lower gasoline prices compared with a year earlier. The government’s cash stimulus payments are also driving demand, according to JTB.

The results are based on surveys and reservations at JTB and include stays of at least one night between April 25 and May 5.

This year, the national holidays that make up Golden Week over the end of April and early May are such that workers can enjoy extended vacations by tacking on extra days before or after. This has helped push up reservations for the start of May by 45% at two facilities operated by Prince Hotels Inc. in Furano, Hokkaido. Roughly 80% of its customers hail from outside the prefecture.

Golden Week bookings at the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima are up 12%. And the Nagashima Resort in Mie Prefecture — which consists of an amusement park, hotels and other leisure offerings — anticipates a 4% rise in visitors to some 280,000.

But JTB says average spending on overseas Golden Week vacations has fallen 14.9% to 216,800 yen, mostly because of reduced airline fuel surcharges. And with consumers increasingly pinching their pennies, spending on domestic Golden Week vacations is down 5.6% to 36,900 yen.

(The Nikkei April 4 morning edition)

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