The number of Japanese traveling to domestic and overseas destinations this year will fall 0.3 percent to 335.82 million, according to an estimate by travel agency JTB Corp.

JTB traced the projected drop-off to the anemic economy and the lack of high-profile domestic events to attract tourists this year.

The number of travelers heading overseas is expected to grow 3.1 percent to 16.85 million, mainly because people 50 or older and women in their 30s are still willing to travel to European and Chinese tourists spots, JTB said.

Domestic travel is predicted to drop 0.5 percent to 318.97 million trips, with travelers to some popular tourists spots softening the overall downtrend.

The number of people visiting theme parks such as Tokyo Disneyland, and tourists spots in the Tohoku region and Shikoku, is expected to grow.

That is due partly to the December opening of a 97-km extension of the bullet train system to Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, from Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.

Shikoku is expected to draw more tourists because pilgrimages to 88 Buddhist sanctuaries on the island are becoming popular, JTB said.

Outlays on each domestic vacation are likely to drop 1 percent to 35,846 yen, it said.

The corresponding amount for travelers going abroad is expected to inch down 0.1 percent to 309,181 yen, as a growing percentage of people prefer traveling on their own rather than taking package tours.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Japan is predicted to rise 5.6 percent to 5.5 million, due partly to a campaign by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to attract visitors.

Tourists from China are expected to surpass 500,000 for the first time, JTB said.

273,476 fliers a day

Japanese airlines said they carried an average of 273,476 passengers on domestic flights each day during the holiday period between Dec. 20 and Jan. 7, the highest daily average on record.

The total number of passengers on domestic flights during the 19-day period came to 5.196 million, up 6 percent from a year earlier, while the number for international flights rose by 11 percent to 497,000, the airlines said.

An airline official attributed the increases, which occurred despite the nation’s prolonged economic slump, to the fact that the holiday period was longer than usual due to how the days fell on the calendar. Many people had nine consecutive days off.

“In addition, most airlines offered discount airfares for domestic flights on New Year’s Day,” the official said.

The number of passengers on international flights has almost recovered to levels before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, he said.

All Nippon Airways said the number of passengers flying to the Kansai region and Okinawa during the holidays rose more than 10 percent from a year ago.

Japan Airlines said the number of people who flew from Japan to Honolulu jumped 40 percent from last year, when demand for Honolulu-bound flights fell sharply after the terrorist attacks. JAL said passenger numbers were up for Vietnam and China flights.

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