In the Summer of 2010, I worked as a graduate intern at the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI), United States Department of Commerce developing a report on the Japanese travel market to the U.S. OTTI’s goal is to enhance the international competitiveness of the U.S. travel and tourism industry.

I develop an analysis using statistics from OTTI to illustrate the decrease in Japanese leisure travel to the United States from 1999 to 2009. My research revealed that leisure tourists from Japan to the U.S. fell 39% from 3.89 million Japanese travelers in 1999 to 2.38 million in 2009.

Japan is the fourth-largest tourism generating market for the U.S. behind Canada, Mexico and the U.K., but Japan risks falling from this position. The drop represents billions lost in spending by Japanese travelers. My findings provided destination marketing organizations (such as state tourism offices, convention and visitors bureaus, etc.) travel planners and tour operators updated research they can use to understand and reverse the downward trends.

View Some Research Graphics Below

Use of Tour Packages

The travel planning process continued to change for Japanese leisure visitors to the U.S. from 1999 to 2009. The timeframe witnessed a drop in volume in the use of packages by Japanese leisure visitors to the U.S. In 1999, the U.S. welcomed 3.9 million Japanese leisure visitors of which 2.2 million used packages – accounting for 55.4 percent of total leisure visitors that year. By 2002, package use by leisure visitors dropped to 49.3 percent – an (11) percent decline from 1999. After the initial decline, a few years of growth occurred with 2006 rising to 53.2 percent – an 8 percent jump from 2002. Then by 2007 it dropped again to a 48 percent low – an (8) percent decline from the previous year. The following years experienced some percentage increases. In 2009, the U.S. welcomed 2.38 million Japanese leisure visitors of which 1.2 million used packages – accounting for 47.7 percent of total Japanese leisure visitors that year.

JAPANESE LEISURE TRAVELERS PACKAGE USER

2009

50.4%

2008

51.9%

2007

48%

2006

52%

2005

52%

2004

51%

2003

51%

2002

49%

2001

49%

2000

55%

1999

55%

Top Leisure Activities

Despite the small changes in market share for top leisure activities by Japanese visitors, volume for all major activities experienced significant drops. For example, shopping dropped 39 percent from 3.72 million participants in 1999 to 2.27 million in 2009. Equally, dining in restaurants fell 38 percent from 3.26 million in 1999 to 2.02 million in 2009, sightseeing in cities fell 41 percent from 2.11 million to 1.24 million, water sports/sunbathing fell 29 percent from 1.59 million to 1.13 million and visits to small towns dropped 37 percent from 1.14 million to 722 thousand participants.

JAPANESE LEISURE TRAVELERS LEISURE ACTIVITIES
(Dark = 2009, Light = 1999)

Shopping

95%

96%

Dining in Restaurants

85%

84%

Sightseeing in Cities

52%

54%

Water Sports/Sunbathing

48%

41%

Visit Small Towns

30%

29%
Number of States Visited

The time period 1999-2009 saw continual declines in the average number of states visited by Japanese leisure tourists as fewer travelers visiting multiple states. During the pre-9/11 period, the mean for Japanese visitors traveling to 1 state was 84.4 percent and 11.2 percent for 2 states. Subsequently, a shift occurred with 89.7 percent visiting 1 state and 7.4 percent visiting 2 states during the post 9/11 recovery period. For the period 2004-2008, 91.2 percent visited 1 state and 6.6 percent visited 2 states. The 2008-2009 global economic recession experienced 92.4 percent visits to 1 state and 5.3 percent visits to 2 states. For 1999 and 2009, the percentage point change in Japanese package travelers visits was  8.7 percent for 1 state and 7 percent for 2 states.

JAPANESE LEISURE TRAVELERS NUMBER OF STATES VISITED
(Dark =1 State, Light = 2 States)

2009

93%

4%

2008

92%

6%

2007

91%

7%

2006

92%

6%

2005

91%

6%

2004

90%

7%

2003

89%

8%

2002

90%

7%

2001

86%

11%

2000

84%

12%

1999

84%

11%