Though nobody can give a persuasive answer to the above question, we have been trying to guess and foresee future developments and possible threats for the industry based on the information we have available at present.
The members of Japan Outbound Tourism Council gathered to exchange information, ideas and opinions about stimulating Japanese outbound travel in the end of November. One challenge stood out. Cultivating a traveler’s spirit in the Japanese youth. Not so keen on traveling overseas, the youth and the motives behind their spending decisions and market behavior have remained a puzzle for the travel industry.
In a recent interview for JATA Communication, Prof. Masami Morishita, Faculty of International Tourism Management, Department of International Tourism Management, Toyo University, shared her observations. ‘Anything that doesn’t sparkle gets overlooked. It never registers on the radar of the youth. (…) While the proportion of the youth declines in the aging Japanese society, the music concert market is expanding and the tastes of the youth diversify. We have come to the point when mass production is not a viable market strategy anymore. (…) In terms of consumption and in terms of demand, there is great variety on offer. Compared to other industries’ offers, overseas travel is far below par.”
To tackle this situation, JATA set up Japan Outbound Tourism Council in the beginning of this year. A new sub-committee of the council (tentative name ‘Youth Market’) is to tackle the challenges which the youth pose as a potential yet difficult to move market for the outbound travel industry.
The fact remains that, to ensure its future, the industry needs to cultivate interest in overseas travel in young people.
We have been keen to encourage youth exchange but, so far, the number of Japanese students and young workers traveling abroad has not grown significantly. Passport acquisition by the youth is considerably lower than that in Australia, USA and other traditionally strong source markets. With the new departure tax, which is to be named “tourism promotion tax” the onus remains on the government to allocate budget for promoting it.
Is the industry up to offering products which sparkle?
And along the way, is it ready to refurbish itself to become an industry which creates and sells not just travel products but a better lifestyle, sparkling experiences and even dreams to those who live in the country that has it all?
One thing is sure. The industry is not ready to give up on the youth market and will be looking for ways to catch youth’s attention both as a workplace and as an industry.
Yet, how high are the stakes for the government? Are they ready to invest into the nation’s youth and ensure that young people learn not only at home but get a chance to tap into the enormous bank of knowledge which the world has to offer?
Because, if the youth does not learn to know better, the future holds nothing in stock for the nation, either.