Workations and “bleisure” concepts take root in Japanese work culture, thanks to Covid

ALL eyes are on Japan as its major cities enter a state of emergency, a couple of months before the Olympics. We catch up with co-founder of WiT Japan & North Asia, Kei Shibata, co-founder & CEO, LINE Travel jp & Trip101, for an update from Japan.

“Workation” and “bleisure”  could potentially bring the travel demand up to the next level as many Japanese are embracing working-from-home.: Kei Shibata

Q: What is
the current situation re-domestic travel in your country?

We are
still seeing quite limited recovery in domestic travel in Japan since the
big cities like Tokyo had been in the state of emergency until last
month and some big cities like Osaka are now getting into the fourth wave
of virus spread driven by the new strains. Data from our LINE Travel jp shows
that domestic travel demand is still far below 50% of pre-pandemic level. 

Q: What is
the outlook on vaccinations and how will those play a role in opening borders?

Unfortunately,
vaccine rollout in Japan is running behind and we are not  being able to
be optimistic with this issue in the short run.  We maintain our hope
of picking up the speed towards the Tokyo Olympics. As we are able to see
a strong recovery in the US and UK markets triggered by the
successful vaccine rollout  through our Trip101’s business
performance, I am very positive that vaccinations should also play a tremendous
role in Japan and other Asian markets as well going forward. Once that happens,
it should first stimulate the domestic demand in large scale and then help open
the borders for resuming both inbound and outbound travels. 

Q: How is
the industry viewing the Olympics? It was meant to be the biggest boost to
inbound tourism but now???

We can’t
deny our disappointment of losing this great opportunity to boost inbound
tourism. Under the current fragile circumstances, now I am hoping
that at least it will happen and bring some local spectators in. 

Q: What 3
steps are you taking to ride through the rest of the year?

1. Survival
2. Prepare for the (tangible) domestic travel recovery
3. New product launch 

Q: How
different will the Japanese  travel industry look after this?

Every
sector is moving to online at an accelerated pace as a number of
offline travel agency outlets are shutting down, contactless operations are
becoming standard.

 Q:
Key challenge facing your country’s travel industry

• Vaccine rollout speed. 
• Excess supply (given that the industry has added the capacity in tremendous scale for the Olympics and beyond).  

 Q:
Key opportunity facing your country’s travel industry

New travel styles such as “workation” (working from vacation home) and “bleisure” (combining business trip and leisure trip) could potentially bring the travel demand up to the next level as working-from-home becomes not an unusual work format for many Japanese now.

Featured image credit: Chinnapong/Getty Images

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