Japan catering to rising trend in solo overseas tours
-- Nov 07
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.

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