Don’t want to travel? Many in Japan say they will “never travel again.”

All travel it seems.

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

But that’s not the reality for everyone.

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

Where the ‘Never Travelers’ are highest

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

About 15% of South Korean and 14% of Chinese respondents said they would never travel again, according to Morning Consult’s The State of Travel & Hospitality report released in August.

North America is not far behind with 14% of American and 11% of Mexican respondents.

Still, no country came close to travel reluctance in Japan, where around 35% of respondents said they did not want to travel again.

The survey asked about “any vacation travel” and made no distinction between domestic or international travel plans, said Lindsey Roeschke, travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.

Respondents were interviewed twice this year: in April and July, she said. During this time, travel confidence increased among other Japanese respondents, including those who said they plan 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 travellers’ in Japan remained the same,” says Roeschke.

According to Morning Consult’s The State of Travel & Hospitality report, the number of people who say they will “never travel again” is almost six times higher in Japan (35%) than in Germany (6%).

Yuichi Yamazaki | AFP | Getty Images

Even as travel intentions increase, Japan’s rates lag far behind other countries, including those in North Asia, according to the report.

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

In 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 choosing to travel abroad, but I think the weaker yen has had a bigger impact.

Tetsuya Hanada

Managing Director, Tabimori Inc.

About 386,000 Japanese travelers went abroad in August — a far cry from the estimated 2.1 million who went 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 when the risk of contracting Covid-19 is high.

Taiwan’s largest tourism source markets are China and Japan, prohibiting a protracted recovery of its tourism industry.

Daniel Ceng | AFP | Getty Images

Tetsuya Hanada, chief executive of food and travel company Tabimori Inc. said he believes finances are an even bigger factor.

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

No place is like home

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

Hideki Furuya

Professor at Toyo University

After a rapid rise in international travel in the 1970s and 1980s, the number of outbound trips by Japanese citizens has largely stagnated since the mid-1990s, according to statistics from the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Roughly the same number of Japanese citizens traveled abroad in 2000 and 2017 – about 18 million – despite the timeframe showing incredible growth for international travel worldwide.

“The language barrier and lack of consecutive public holidays are some of the reasons why domestic travel is preferred,” Furuya said, adding that “work environments that make it difficult to take paid vacations” are another factor.

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

Behrouz Mehri | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Furuya said he doesn’t expect it to take that long.

“Having seen and heard how active Westerners are, we expect a return to international travel demand before 2020 sooner rather than later,” he said.

Others stay at home too

Outside of Japan, other travelers say they too have lost their desire to travel.

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

“In the past I have loved to travel and just earlier this year I traveled from London to Singapore and Poland,” he said. But “those two trips sparked anxiety that has since grown much worse.”

A combination of things kept him from travelling, he said, including Covid, travel disruptions and a partner who was medically vulnerable.

Singaporean Daniel Chua says he is in no rush to travel for “various 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 he was less inclined to travel, partly because of the environmental impact.

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

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

But he admitted he’s surrounded by people who travel.

“I don’t talk to them about why I’m not traveling, not to burst their bubble or to be in the middle of all these party poop celebrations,” he said. “It’s a personal choice for me.”

Chua said he believes there are more people who feel like him, but that they travel out of peer pressure or for FOMO — or the “fear of missing out.”

However, neither affects him, he said.

“I’ve traveled so much,” he said. “There is no particular country in the world that I really need to visit right now.”

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