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1 Jan, 2001

Asian Destinations Get Tips on Attracting More Japanese Honeymooners

Destinations in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, especially beach resorts, are having virtually no success in attracting the lucrative Japanese honeymoon market, according to the latest results of a bi-annual survey carried out by the Japanese tour operator JTB Inc.

The latest survey, covering the period October-December 2002, shows that the only Asian destination to have made it in JTB’s list of top 20 honeymoon destinations is the Maldives, a first-time entrant at Number 17. First carried out in 1969, the latest JTB survey covered 4,354 couples booking honeymoons with JTB’s main offices in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

While Asian destinations are proving more popular with European honeymooners, the latest survey highlighted some of the interesting trends taking place in the Japanese honeymoon market, which may be of use to Thai destinations wishing to get a foot in the door.

Inspite of poor economic conditions in Japan, honeymoon couples spent average of 526,000 yen (US$4,383) per couple. That was a 13% increase over 2001 level and the first such increase in the last 12 years, according to JTB.

Said the report, “Although the current survey is influenced by lower incomes caused by the depression and generally shorter honeymoons, the average expenditure per couple appears to have increased for the following reasons:

“With overseas travel becoming more common, the awareness of a honeymoon as a journey to remember is encouraging couples to choose hotels that have a personal appeal. We are seeing couples who feel prepared to spend more in order to indulge their personal preferences and create their own individual journey.

“Particularly for popular Europe, the proportion of couples spending between 600,000 yen and 800,000 yen has reached 23.2% (a large 7.7 percentage points increase over 2001).”

Hawaii was chosen by 28.1% of the couples and has retained top place eveyr year since 1998. Europe has moved into second place for the first time in the history of these surveys, chosen by 18.2% of the couples. Australia has fallen from second to third place, 16.8%.

The reasons for Hawaii’s ‘unwavering popularity’, according to the survey, is its good climate, rich resources in hotels, restaurants and shopping, etc., and freedom from language problems.

“Of every four couples visiting Hawaii, one performs the wedding ceremony there. Variety is added to the stay by spending time in islands other than Oahu, a popular option that accounts for some 40% of the total honeymooners to Hawaii.”

The report said couples who want a honeymoon that reflects their personal tastes choose Europe. Italy continues to remain very popular, with some 50% of honeymooners (to Europe) travelling within this country, a proportion that rises to about 70% if we include all those who combine a visit to Italy with visits to one or two other cities.

“Many Japanese feel attracted by Italian tastes in food, clothing and dwellings, and by the Italians’ evident enjoyment of life,” the report said.

Other recent trends include:

== Growing numbers of honeymooners are using package tours that provide efficient visits to the various main attractions within Italy, and then staying two days in Rome or Milan, or tacking on two-day extensions to visit Paris or London when the main tour is over.

== Rather than leave for their honeymoon immediately after the wedding ceremony, more and more couples are waiting until December to make their trips. This is the season for bargains, and city streets are beautifully decorated in the Christmas season.

== More couples are specifying small, intimate hotels or high category hotels. A generation of honeymooners that has become accustomed to overseas travel is increasingly going for things that appeal to them personally, staying in the hotel of their choice in a city they know and love at a season when it will look its best.

Of those honeymooners who choose Australia, some 80% stay on the Eastern seaboard, particularly the Gold Coast. In the honeymoon season of autumn 2001, Australia achieved a major increase in its market share as those who had intended going to the US Mainland diverted to Australia. The fact that travel to the US is beginning to recover has slightly reduced its share, but overall the trends are healthy.

Two rapidly rising destinations are Tahiti, up from 17th place in the Top 20 list to 10th place in autumn 2002, and the Maldives which did not even figure in 2001, but has now entered the Top 20 list at 17th place.

“The perfect accommodation for the fullest possible enjoyment of a marine resort is a cottage over the water. Among the many marine resorts, Tahiti and the Maldives are attracting attention as those offering stays in such cottages. These support the desire to ‘get away from all the mad rush and just relax near the sea’,” the report said.

The average length of an overseas honeymoon is 7.0 days (half a day less than in 2001). The continuing reduction in the length of honeymoons had seemed to be leveling off after 1999, but now the decline has resumed. Certainly, the economic effects of Japan’s depression are making it difficult to take long holidays, the survey said.

At the same time, the recovery from the reluctance in 2001 to visit Guam/Saipan and Hawaii means that larger shares are now held by shorter honeymoons, 10.1% being four days or less (up 7.5 percentage points over 2001), 15.3% of six days or less (up 0.8 percentage points).

Moreover, most honeymooners have traveled abroad before their marriage, and “with foreign travel now a part of their lifestyle they feel less inclined to take a long holiday for their honeymoon.”

The average age of the grooms in the couples surveyed was 30.1, and of the brides was 28.3. (The Japanese census for 2001 gives the average ages of marriage for the entire population as 30.6 and 28.4, respectively.)

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