Japan - Commercial Guide
Travel and Tourism

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

In 2018, Japan was the fourth largest overall source of inbound travelers (and second largest overseas source)  to the U.S., attracting 3.5 million visitors.  The total number of Japanese outbound travelers in 2018 was 18.95 million.  The U.S. continues to be one of the most popular destinations for Japanese visitors with an 18.4 percent market share in Japan.  Japanese spending in the U.S. remained healthy with travel and tourism receipts totaling $16 billion, fourth after China, Mexico and Canada. 

There are three peak holiday periods in Japan: Golden Week, Obon, and the end of the year through the week of the New Year. Golden Week, generally a popular time to travel abroad occurs at the end of April/early May, during which the four Japanese public holidays can be extended into a five-to-nine-day vacation. The summer Obon holiday occurs around August 15. Since the longest school holiday of the year also occurs at this time, August is the peak month for all Japanese travel. Many Japanese companies and organizations close during the last week in December until just after the New Year for the year-end/New Year holiday, making it a popular time to travel abroad. All of these holidays present excellent opportunities for travel to the U.S.

On May 16, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively allocated 12 slot pairs for daily scheduled services between the U.S. and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) among four U.S. carriers.  Pending completion of an aviation agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments later this year, the flights are expected to begin service by the summer of 2020.  DOT’s preliminary decision is as follows:

- American Airlines (2 flights): Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles
- Delta Air Lines (5 flights): Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Portland (Oregon), Honolulu
- Hawaiian Airlines (1 flight): Honolulu
- United Airlines (4 flights): Newark, Chicago, Washington-Dulles, Los Angeles

In addition to these 12 slot pairs, another 12 slots pairs for the U.S. routes will be allocated to two Japanese carriers (JAL and ANA).
With this increase in the number of seats between the U.S. and Japan, now is an excellent time for the U.S. travel industry to promote their destinations and services in the Japanese market.

Unit: millions of people

 2016201720182019 (Estimated)
Number of Outbound Travelers17.1217.8918.9519.10
Number of Outbound Travelers to the U.S.3.583.603.493.52
Data Sources:
Number of Outbound Travelers: Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), JTB Corp.
Number of Outbound Travelers to the U.S.: U.S. DOC/NTTO

Leading Sub-Sectors
Senior Travel Market
Within the Japanese outbound travel market, the senior travel segment shows especially good growth potential for U.S. firms and destinations. While the overall size of the Japanese population will slowly decrease, the number of people aged 60 and over is steadily increasing.  Currently, one out of every four people in Japan is over the age of 65, which will be over 35 million people (of the total population of 127 million). The Japanese senior segment, including the 6.3 million baby boomers born between 1947 and 1949, was strongly influenced by American music, film, and TV. As a result, these seniors, especially Japanese males, have a favorable impression of American lifestyle and culture. These individuals have time, money, and energy to spend on leisure travel, and are the best match for long-haul destinations such as the United States.

Special Interest Tours (SITs)
While the majority of Japanese travelers still enjoy nature and scenery, shopping, gourmet, food, history and culture, some travelers have a more specific purpose in mind such as attending sporting events or engaging in favorite activities such as hobbies. In Japan, these tours are called Special Interest Tours, or SITs. These tourists are interested in traveling with others who share the same interests and have the potential to become repeat travelers. Japanese travel companies are eager to create SITs and are actively seeking potential themes.

The following are examples of themes that appeal to Japanese travelers:
  • Spectator Sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, golf and the Olympics
  • Sports activities such as golfing, hiking, fishing, diving, skiing and marathons
  • Art and cultural tours such as visiting museums and art galleries, and going to concerts and theaters
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site tours
  • Hobby tours such as quilting, photo-taking, drawing, and dancing
  • Cruises
Educational Travel
In Japan, almost all public and private schools including primary, junior high, and high schools organize school trips, including international trips, for their students. According to the Education Tour Institute, in the Japanese fiscal year 2017 (April 2017 to March 2018), a total of 156,413 high school students participated in overseas school organized travel with a total of 895 high schools. Within the 895 high schools, 202 schools went to the U.S.  The U.S. is the number one overseas school travel destination in Japan. In fact, many high schools, specifically private high schools all over Japan organize some type of overseas educational travel including large-scale school trips, and voluntary small group trips with homestay and language training components.

Brand U.S.A Pavilion at Tourism EXPO Japan 2019
October 24-27, 2019

Web Resources

CS Japan Contact
Ms. Tamami Honda, Senior Commercial Specialist