Inflation impacts Japan’s Golden Week: Decreased domestic travellers

During Japan’s Golden Week holiday, domestic travel saw a decline, particularly in rural areas, attributed to rising prices. Exceptions included Fukui, benefiting from its inclusion on the extended Hokuriku Shinkansen line.

Private sector data revealed a decline in domestic travelers during this year’s Golden Week holiday period in Japan, as many residents refrained from extensive travel due to rising prices. Analysis of data from approximately 60 major train stations across the country indicated a decrease in domestic travel in 53 locations compared to the previous year. This trend coincided with a surge in accommodation fees, driven by increased inbound tourism supported by a weaker yen.

The Golden Week holiday, spanning late April to early May and encompassing several national holidays, occurred following Japan’s decision to downgrade the legal status of the coronavirus, aligning it with seasonal flu. The holiday period unfolded against a backdrop of declining real wages, marking the 24th consecutive month of decrease, the longest since comparable data began in 1991.

Notably, rural cities experienced a prominent trend of residents refraining from travel, with some exceptions such as Fukui in central Japan, which witnessed an 8.9 percent increase in domestic visitors, attributed to its inclusion on the extended Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line inaugurated in March.

Conversely, Sapporo in Hokkaido recorded the largest drop at 15.8 per cent, followed by major cities like Sendai and Nagoya with double-digit decreases. Even popular tourist destinations like Kyoto and Tokyo’s Shinjuku saw declines of 7.7 per cent and 5.7 per cent, respectively.

Overall, the number of domestic travellers across the 60 sites averaged approximately 9.82 million per day, marking a 6.7 per cent decrease compared to the previous year. While this figure tripled from 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still fell 26.0 per cent short of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Hideo Kumano, chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute’s Economic Research Department, suggested that people are prioritizing cost-saving measures while facing pressure on essential expenses like electricity and food.