Don’t want to travel? Many in Japan say they’ll ‘never travel again’

Everyone is traveling, it seems.

Data shows that people are traveling more frequently and for longer periods of time, with many planning big bucket list style trips this year.

But this is not the reality for everyone.

Another group of people is quietly emerging from the pandemic with little to no interest in travel.

Where the ‘never travelers’ are the tallest

A survey of 16,000 adults in 15 countries by global intelligence company Morning Consult found that Asia is home to the highest percentage of people who said they would “never travel again.”

About 15% of South Koreans and 14% of Chinese respondents indicated they would never travel again, according to Report “The State of Travel and Hospitality” from Morning Consult posted in august.

North America is not far behind, with 14% of American respondents and 11% of Mexicans indicating the same.

However, no country came close to the reluctance to travel displayed in Japan, where around 35% of respondents said they have no intention of traveling again.

The survey asked about “any leisure travel” and did not differentiate between domestic or international travel plans, said Lindsey Roeschke, a travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.

Respondents were surveyed twice this year: in April and July, he said. During that time, travel confidence increased among other Japanese respondents, including those who said they planned to travel in the next three months (+7 points) as well as in the next 12 months (+4 points).

But in both surveys, “the number of ‘never travelers’ … stayed the same in Japan,” Roeschke said.

Even with travel intentions on the rise, Japan’s fares remain far behind other countries, including those in North Asia, according to the report.

Why don't people who don't want to travel talk about it?

About 45% of Japanese respondents said they intended to travel next year, compared with 65% in China and 66% in South Korea, the survey showed.

By contrast, 77% of German respondents said they plan to travel in the next 12 months.

‘I don’t want to go abroad’

You could say that the pandemic has reduced the number of Japanese people who decide to travel abroad, but I think that the weakness of the yen has had a bigger impact.

Tetsuya Hanada

Managing Director, Tabimori Inc.

Some 386,000 Japanese travelers traveled abroad in August, far from the estimated 2.1 million who traveled abroad in August 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Hideki Furuya, a professor at Japan’s Toyo University who studies tourist behavior, said one reason is the culture’s “preference for risk aversion.”

He said peer pressure will also keep travelers close to home if the risk of contracting Covid-19 is high.

Why don't people who don't want to travel talk about it?

Tetsuya Hanada, CEO of food and travel company Tabimori Inc., said he believes finances are an even more important factor.

“You could say that the pandemic has reduced the number of Japanese people who decide to travel abroad, but I think the weaker yen has had a bigger impact,” he told CNBC Travel.

There is no place like home

We hope to see a return to pre-2020 international travel demand sooner rather than later.

Hideki Furuya

Professor at Toyo University

Following a rapid increase in international travel during the 1970s and 1980s, the number of Japanese citizens traveling abroad has largely stagnated since the mid-1990s, according to statistics from the Japan National Tourism Organization.

About the same number of Japanese citizens traveled abroad in 2000 and 2017 (around 18 million), even though the time period was one of incredible growth for international travel worldwide.

“Language barrier and lack of back-to-back vacations are some of the reasons why domestic travel is preferred,” Furuya said, adding that “work environments that make paid vacations difficult” are another factor.

Japan’s passport is often cited as one of the strongest in the world, yet less than one in four Japanese citizens held one in 2019.

Behruz Mehri | Afp | fake images

He also cited the lure of Japan’s nature, history and culture as an added incentive to stay close to home.

This will put additional pressure on destinations that are popular with Japanese tourists, namely Taiwan, South Korea and Hawaii.

But Hanada said that over time, Japanese citizens are likely to travel again.

“The Japanese are easily influenced by the majority, a sentiment that will change in five years,” he said.

Furuya said that he hopes it won’t take that long.

“After seeing and hearing how active Westerners are, we expect to see a return to pre-2020 international travel demand sooner rather than later,” he said.

Others also stay at home

Beyond Japan, other travelers say they, too, have lost their taste for travel.

The British artist known as Miles Takes told CNBC Travel that “international travel still seems a long way off” for him.

“In the past, I loved to travel and recently, earlier this year, I traveled to Singapore and Poland from London,” he said. But “both trips caused an anxiety that has since gotten much worse.”

He said a combination of things kept him from traveling, including covid, travel disruptions and having a medically vulnerable partner.

Singaporean Daniel Chua says he is in no rush to travel for “a mix of reasons.”

But Covid is not one of them, he said.

“I’m not afraid of the virus,” said Singaporean Daniel Chua, pictured here in Edinburgh, Scotland. He told CNBC Travel that he is less inclined to travel, in part, because of his impact on the environment.

A work trip to Europe in June exposed him to a “disaster” of flight delays and staff shortages, he said. In addition, he said that virtual meetings are a more efficient use of work time.

Chua also cited sustainability as a disincentive to travel, calling it a “core belief in my work and personal life.”

But he acknowledged that he is surrounded by people who are traveling.

“I don’t talk to them about why I don’t travel, not to burst their bubble or, you know, to be the killjoy in the middle of all this celebration,” he said. “For me, it’s a personal decision.”

Chua said he thinks there are more people out there who feel like him but travel because of peer pressure or FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

However, neither affect him, he said.

“I’ve traveled a lot before,” he said. “There’s no particular country in the world that I really need to visit right now.”

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