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The number of Japanese tourists going overseas in 2001 will increase 3.3 percent from last year to hit a record 18.4 million, the nation’s largest travel agency predicted in an annual report released Tuesday.

JTB Corp. said the number could reach 20 million in 2005 and exceed 22 million in 2010 if no great changes occur in the domestic economy, currency exchange rates or other international situations.

Despite the current economic slump, the number of Japanese traveling overseas has been steadily increasing.

JTB attributed that trend to tourists 50 and older, who have plenty of financial assets and leisure time.

According to the JTB report, 12.1 percent of all women in their 50s went overseas in 1996, and the percentage rose to 12.4 percent in 1999. The corresponding ratio for women 60 or older increased from 5.7 percent to 6 percent during the same period.

In contrast, 30.9 percent of women in their 20s went overseas in 1996, and the percentage fell to 28.1 percent in 1999, the report says.

It also says people 50 or older — who collectively have more than 70 percent of the nation’s personal financial assets — are less affected by fluctuations in the economy.

In contrast, travelers in their 20s and 40s are more affected by economic conditions because they can go overseas only when they can spare the money and time, it says.

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