Week in Review: Japan, Summer Travel Heating Up

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) says that American visitor arrivals to Japan is up 3.6 percent year-to-date in 2023 over the same period (January to April) in 2019—a year that broke the record for international travel to Japan. In April 2023 alone, nearly 184,000 Americans visited Japan, an 8 percent increase over April 2019, making the U.S. one of two Western nations (alongside Mexico, which saw a 13.1 percent increase in its visitor numbers to Japan over the same period) to experience a rise in tourism to Japan.

“We have seen an exponential increase in the interest in travel to Japan from the American market,” says Michiaki Yamada, executive director of the JNTO in New York. “Following the reopening of our country’s borders to international tourism in late 2022 and the lifting of all COVID-related entry restrictions this spring, the incredible pent-up demand to experience the wonders of Japan post-pandemic means that we will likely be welcoming more Americans than ever before in the months to come.”

In a recent survey conducted by our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor, 41 percent of travel advisors reported that their clients are more interested in travel to Asia now than they were at the beginning of the year, with one-third adding that interest is “the same.” Without a doubt, much of that interest is led by travel to Japan.

So, how can you experience Japan?

Summer Travel Heating Up

More than eight in 10 Americans—85 percent, to be exact—have plans to travel this summer, according to the recent “2023 Summer Travel Survey” by The Vacationer. More than half of those (44 percent) are planning to take more than one vacation. The survey found that, generally, the younger you are the more likely you will travel this summer and the more likely it is that you will fly for your vacation.

Summer vacations are growing in importance among Americans, as well. Allianz Partners USA’s "15th Annual Vacation Confidence Index" found that consumer vacation confidence is continuing its three-year trend with 61 percent of Americans intending to book a summer trip of 100 or more miles away from home for at least a week (up one point from last year; 19 points since 2019). Not surprisingly, “financial considerations” was most frequently cited as the reason among those not taking a summer vacation, while those making more than $100,000 annually per household were more likely to travel than lower income groups.

For those who are traveling, a separate Allianz survey found that more than half (60 percent) of its customers are planning to take in a theater, show, concert or music festival during their travels this summer.

Good to know: Research by Squaremouth determined that travelers in 2023 are typically planning their international vacations fewer than 19 weeks in advance of their trip. At the same time, the U.S. Department of State’s latest reports show that travelers applying for a passport are having to wait roughly 13 weeks to receive their book in the mail—which is cutting it close. In addition, nearly nine in 10 insurance policies sold by Squaremouth in May were for international destinations.

So, as wait times are likely to increase with demand, travelers heading abroad should confirm their passports are valid for their travel dates and take immediate action if they are set to expire.

On the Agency Side

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) applauded the inclusion of several of its top priorities in legislation released by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) and other federal aviation programs through 2028.

The legislation, officially titled the “Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act,” clarifies travel agency refund obligations, adds a travel agency seat on the DOT Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, streamlines disclosures in offline ticket transactions and more.

Advisors pose with Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble (fifth from left) at its owners Summit earlier in June. (Ensemble)

In addition, Ensemble celebrated its one-year anniversary since its acquisition by Navigatr Group at its Summit Event, held June 4-7 at the Stein Erikson Lodge in Park City, UT. The event for owners and managers had a theme of “Champion Mindset,” and executives noted the latest happening at the "new Ensemble."

Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, noted that the network’s 96 percent year-over-year growth has come from a combination of travel rebound following the pandemic and the value proposition of the consortium. Key to Ensemble’s growth, he said, has been the ability to onboard members on the proprietary ADX platform, which has more than 10,000 advisors using it at an average 7.9 percent yield.

Next up for Ensemble is Horizons, the annual event for the entire consortium, which will take place at Paris Las Vegas, November 2-6.

The Latest in Cruise

Visiting Vintner Patricia Hedge of Wine Tasting Events in Provence, France, came aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages' World Traveller to conduct a wine presentation and tasting for guests on the Epicurean Expedition voyage.
Patricia Hedge, an Atlas Ocean Voyages "Visiting Vintner," hosted a wine tasting event on our "Epicurean Expedition" voyage. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

Vantage Deluxe World Travel has again canceled several voyages just days before departure—which it had done previously in April of this year. Many are claiming that the company has “ceased operations” and its travel insurance partner, Allianz, has terminated its relationship with the cruise/tour company for late payment of Part A claims.

A representative from the company told Travel Agent that it has not, in fact, ceased operations but is “currently engaged in sensitive negotiations for a sale of the company.” She added: “Our primary goal is to obtain the best outcome for our customers. Confidentiality agreements governing our negotiations prevent us from disclosing additional information at this time.”

Vantage Travel's two ships, Ocean Explorer and Ocean Odyssey, have been laid up at Port Caen, France for nearly two weeks.

Following a fire in its engine room last week—a subsequent safe disembarking of all passengers—UnCruise AdventuresWilderness Discoverer is already undergoing repairs. No injuries resulted from the fire or subsequent transfer of guests and crew and the ship could return to service in Alaska this season.

On site: Travel Agent recently had the chance to sail with Atlas Ocean Voyages for one of its “Epicurean Expeditions” in Europe. Two “Gastronomic Guests” were onboard, whose dishes are featured on the menus in the main dining room; they also led fun dining experiences for the guests, including an “Iron Chef”-style competition. These sailings also have a culinary bent when it comes to the shore excursions.

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