Ohitorisama — doing things alone — has been a thing in Japan.
For instance, restaurants and karaoke spots try to accommodate solo customers so they don’t feel uncomfortable on their own. Now the fad is spreading to overseas tours, and travel companies are cashing in on the trend.
Solo tours accounted for 23.6 percent of all outbound tours from Japan in 2015, up from 17.3 percent in 2007, according to JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co. Although the rate dropped slightly to 22.3 percent in 2016, it was higher than 21.0 percent for tours with family members or relatives, and close to 23.1 percent for those by married couples.
“The negative image of doing things alone is declining,” said Mihoko Kubota, an associate professor at Tokyo-based Asia University.
“More and more people no longer feel lonely when traveling alone, thanks to the widespread use of social media, which help them share their experiences with others,” said Kubota, who teaches in the university’s hospitality management department. “Also, solo travelers have less anxiety because they can gain information about their destinations on the internet.”
A survey this year by the JTB Corp. travel agency found that nearly 70 percent of Japanese who travel abroad alone use package tours. The figure breaks down to 36 percent for tours involving only flight and accommodation arrangements and 33 percent for those accompanied by tour escorts.
Tourists often feel anxious when they travel abroad alone, so demand is strong for guides and local support, a JTB official said.
Travel companies are offering a variety of tours to attract people looking for a solo journey. Demand is growing because such tours meet the needs of people who seek easy travel and who wish to share the experience with others.
Club Tourism International Inc. said occupancy for solo overseas tours it arranges from the Tokyo metropolitan area have increased 80 percent in the last five years.
Women account for 80 percent of the participants on such tours, said the company, which pioneered tours for solo travelers.
By age, 21.9 percent are people up to their 30s, Club Tourism said. The proportion is 15.8 percent for people in their 40s, 20.6 percent for those in their 50s, 28.8 percent for the 60s age group and 11.3 percent for travelers in their 70s.
“People who had been too worried about traveling alone probably feel it is easier to join (a package solo tour),” a Club Tourism official said.
The company aims to stimulate further demand by offering more package solo tours designed for people in specific age brackets.
Relatively safe destinations, including Australia, have become more popular among those taking solo tours. This can be blamed on terrorist attacks in Europe and frequent provocative remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump that have lessened the popularity of some destinations, according to Kazuo Arai, executive manager at the Community Travel Center International of the Overseas Travel Department at Club Tourism.
“Traveling alone will likely continue to increase, although terrorism and unstable political situations will have a strong influence,” Kubota of Asia University said. (Jiji)