Social media users have appeared somewhat resigned over the loss of their summer vacations this year, typically describing it on platforms such as Twitter as an exercise in despair.
The good news, however, is that Silver Week is right around the corner, and some people are already revealing plans to get away at some point between Sept. 19 and 22.
These trips are mostly 30 minutes to an hour’s drive from their homes, traveling to a local destination that features lower levels of anxiety than a far-flung escape. Welcome to the age of micro-tourism.
Micro-tourism may sound relatively new, but it was common in Japan during the 1970s when ultra-short vacations and limited budgets were the norm. Indeed, many Japanese think back to summers filled with a soak at a community swimming pool or fishing in a lake.
These days, however, the concept has been retooled thanks to the efforts of Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO of Hoshino Resort Co.
Hoshino believes micro-tourism can buoy the travel industry, struggling as it is under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of inbound travelers.
Hoshino told Asahi.com in June that domestic travel has enormous potential, racking up sales worth ¥22 trillion in 2019. The inbound market, on the other hand, generated sales worth just ¥4.8 trillion over the same period. The difference is significant, and Hoshino says that now is the time to focus on the needs of domestic tourists who have no choice but to enjoy the pleasures of Japan — at least for the foreseeable future.
Hoshino is widely acknowledged as being one of the most progressive hoteliers of his time, an entrepreneur who has redesigned and redefined the resort hotel experience in Japan. Now he’s trying to save the whole tourism industry.
“One of the ways to make the vacation experience better for everyone is to schedule holidays throughout the year,” he told Asahi.com in another interview. “For example, travel prices in Japan go through the roof during Golden Week because it’s practically the only time people are able to take a week or more off. After Golden Week, though, things become quiet and few are traveling. If we can stagger holidays so the travel industry can rely on a constant number of visitors throughout the year, it would help everyone.”
True, there’s nothing great about a holiday if we have to spend it sitting in traffic or paying exorbitant sums for accommodation that’s bound to be crowded anyway.
Take the recent Bon holidays in August. Tokyo residents flocked to Okutama in droves, taking advantage of the area’s clear rivers and green forests without having to leave the capital. Okutama locals were alarmed, to say the least, when long lines of traffic clogged the area’s narrow roads, making it difficult for public buses, care vehicles and ambulances to navigate the jams.
Deha magazine says it’s important to keep micro-tourism simple. Limit the number of people you’re traveling with, don’t stay too long in one place and don’t travel too far, an article in the magazine warns.
So far, the jury’s verdict on micro-tourism is mostly good. Reports have emerged on Twitter praising visitors for keeping Gunma Prefecture’s hot-spring industry alive.
The region has also been proactive in supporting such endeavors, allowing guests to sleep in their cars in a parking lot with close proximity to the resort. For a small fee, visitors can enjoy the use of whatever facilities are on offer without the hassle of checking into a hotel.
Naturally, however, there’s always a downside to micro-tourism.
“The good thing about traveling in this style is that I don’t have to go very far to feel like I’ve left the tired trappings of my existence behind,” Twitter user @patissier _ichiy writes. “When that experience is over, however, it only takes a short time to jolt my brain back to reality.”
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