Amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and all that followed, it is obvious that people’s lives in Japan, like everywhere else in the world, got severely impacted. While lockdowns kept them indoors for several months, a general rise in psychological and emotional fatigue among people made them get out and move around during the holiday seasons, towards the latter half of 2020. The Government-led Go To Travel campaign followed by the Go To Eat campaign was also supposed to have played its part in the returning to normal.
Out and about, post-lockdown
We studied the mobility patterns of people across the five cities of Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Sapporo) during the four major holiday seasons of the year – Golden Week (2 May to 6 May 2020), Obon Holidays (13 August to 16 August 2020), Silver Week (19 September to 22 September 2020) and New Year (29 December to 3 January 2020). We compared and contrasted the data with that observed during the pre-lockdown non-holiday period between 25 April and 30 April 2020 (base period).
We categorized the audience we analyzed into professionals, students, affluent and parents, and by their age groups.
The analysis revealed changes in how frequently people visited certain destinations, how far they travelled to get there, and how much time they spent at the destinations, and the numbers have quite a story to tell.
Some Fresh Air in the Silver Week
As the government was gradually relaxing the restrictions and the new normal was settling in, Silver week (around the third week of September 2020) started seeing a significant increase in people movements across all cities.
Moreover, the New Year season saw a much higher increase in footfalls, over 80% compared to the base period, but it was also characterized with lower time spent at the destinations. While a high number of footfalls signals people’s propensity to move around more, lesser time spent at the destinations signals their propensity to keep moving around, and not be susceptible to infections so they tend to spend less time in a given location.
The newly gained fervor allowed people to travel long distances to reach their holiday destinations, especially during the Obon Holiday season. During the New Year season, it is not surprising that pubs were the most sought-after destinations and long distances did not deter people from travelling. It appears that people generally do not mind travelling long distances to go to their favorite pubs, but when it comes to planning a holiday trip, people prefer places closer to their homes.
A sample of what data had to uncover
The retail stores in Tokyo saw highest footfalls from young people of the age-group 18-24, but in Sapporo, it was the people of the age group 35-44.
Fukuoka saw a surge in students’ foot falls to retail stores – during the Obon holidays, Silver week as well as New Year, while in Osaka it was mostly the ‘Affluents’ that visited the retail stores.
Pubs as a New Year destination in Tokyo and Osaka was the most popular among all age groups of people living in the cities, except the baby boomers (age group 45+). However, in Nagoya, the age group 35-44 had a peculiar liking to visiting pubs during the Silver Week rather than New Year.
Among the pub goers in Tokyo, the most loyal were the age group 35-44 – the pandemic did not quite deter them from going to pubs.
Young adults of age group 20-24 and parents in Fukuoka visited pubs in larger numbers during all the holiday seasons except the Golden Week, at least 70% more than the base period.
Restaurants as a New Year destination in Tokyo was only popular among people aged 18-44. However, in Sapporo the younger lot belonging to the age group 18-24 chose to reduce dining out during the New Year at least by 65%.
So, who were really at the restaurants during the New Year season in Tokyo? It was mainly the people aged 25-44 and they were predominantly students and parents.
Parents in Osaka also loved dining out, not just during the New Year but also the Obon Holidays and the Silver Week. However, in Nagoya, dining out was only a favorite New-Year activity among the parents.
Obon holidays followed by the New Year were high tourist seasons in Tokyo. However, it was the Silver Week in Osaka.
Silver Week and New Year saw an increase in visitors. Particularly,the number of visitors during the New Year who belonged to the age group 18-24 increased by over 70%.
Professionals, students, and parents preferred Fukuoka to Sapporo for their New-Year getaways. However, Obon Holidays and Silver Week attracted students to Sapporo.
Clearly, the change is felt – from the house-ridden and panic-stricken times to finally people venturing out for good. Whatever be the driving force behind it, having a deep understanding of how people move around will help businesses not only find new avenues of growth, but also uncover opportunities to optimize their costs. In this way, the analysis revealed forward-looking insights which would not be available for businesses without studying how people actually move around in a predictable context such as holidays.