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Environmental and Globalization Impacts of Tourism Transport in Japan


In the past six decades, Japan’s distinctive island topography, culture, and history have contributed to increased tourism. In the 1960s and the next two decades, Japan’s overseas visitors grew gradually, reaching a peak in the early 1990s with roughly 3.8 million arrivals in 1996. In 2012, the number of visitors from outside the country surpassed eight million. For the first time, Japan was ranked 22nd globally, with a record-breaking 19.8 million visits in 2015. (Henderson, 2017). As reported by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) (2021), a total of 31.9 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2019 (pre-Covid). It’s an increase of 61% over 2015 and 11.5% over the previous year’s 28.6 million. At least through 2030, the upward trend in tourism is predicted to continue. However, various factors, including globalization, may derail projections (Henderson, 2017), such as the recent Covid-19 outbreak that saw 2020 visitors to Japan decline to 4.1 million. In light of the increasing economic significance of tourism, it is vital to address the environmental and globalization impacts of tourist transport (Tsukui, Ichikawa, and Kagatsume, 2017). Infrastructure projects now under construction show a shift toward creating a retail and consuming environment to earn income (Page and Ge, 2009). The huge quantities of traffic expected due to these developments raise environmental and globalization challenges, which this report examines for the tourist transportation industry, notably in terms of sustainability and climate change.

Environment issues

For tourists to travel, transportation is essential. It permits the movement of visitors from their point of origin to their final destination and back. When it comes to symbiotic relationships, tourism and transportation are mutually reinforcing. There are numerous parallels between this and the tourism-environment interaction (Page and Ge, 2009). Environmental conservation initiatives are not only necessary for sustainable tourism development but also improve destination appeal. A Japan Tourism White Paper 2017 estimates that the UNWTO’s definition of GDP for the tourism industry is about $78.6 billion, or 1.7% of the country’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). Even more importantly, the tourism sector GDP is growing at a far faster pace than other sectors (Kitamura et al., 2020). According to the United Nations, three million people travel around the world every day, and roughly 1.2 billion people go overseas every year. As defined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Tourism (UNWTO), sustainable tourism is tourism that considers its current and projected socioeconomic and environmental implications. “Tourism for SDGs” is also being implemented by the world’s tourism sector to contribute to the SDGs (Kitamura et al., 2020).

Carbon emission

For the next 20 years, tourism and transportation are expected to account for a significant portion of the projected increase in greenhouse gas emissions (Page and Ge, 2009). The carbon footprint (CFP) of worldwide tourism was computed by Lenzen et al. (2018) using input-output data from many regions. There are several sub-industries within the tourist business that include transportation and housing, meals, entertainment, souvenirs, etc. The sector is predicted to expand at a worldwide annual rate of 4%. Regardless of the activities, one engages in after they get to their destination, the term “travel” or “tourism transport” refers to the act of leaving one’s usual surroundings. Figure 1 shows how the CFP was estimated and determined to be 136 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The percentage of each stage’s contribution is as follows: Transport 56%, souvenirs 23%, fuel (direct emissions) 17%, lodging 10%, food and beverage 8%, and activities 3% accounted for the rest. As a result, the breakdown of the impact was as follows: air transportation 25 percent, lodging 10 percent; food and beverage 8 percent; petrol 6 percent; and 5 percent each for food products, textiles, and confectionery, rail transportation 3.9 percent, and footwear 1.8 percent (Kitamura et al., 2020). According to these findings, transportation has a significant influence, not only in terms of the actual transportation but also in terms of the souvenirs, accommodations, and food and beverage purchased along the way. From a comparison of the incoming tourist stage’s consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the latter is rising according to the amount travelers spend on lodging, food and drink, and personal care products. In addition, air travel has a more significant effect than other modes of transportation.

The Ministry of the Environment recently reported that Japan emitted 1292 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in 2017 (Kitamura et al., 2020). Tourism in Japan, therefore, accounts for over 10 percent of the national CFP. Japan’s tourist GDP in 2017 was estimated at $94.4 billion, which is around 2% of Japan’s nominal GDP. The Japanese government’s tourist strategy aims to boost both incoming demand and local consumption. The country can expect that the economic consequences will continue to grow in the coming years. Based on the findings of Kitamura et al. (2020) and similar research, Japan needs to keep an eye on the link between economic activity and GHG emissions.

Lenzen et al. (2018) found that tourists release the bulk of CFP from high-income nations, both within and outside their country. Their findings account for about 8% of worldwide GHG emissions. It is also becoming a pressing problem that much outweighs the emissions reductions systems of tourism-related technology. Complex and direct connections exist between GHG emissions and tourist consumption. Products and services with higher emission rates produce more GHG and significantly affect the environment. As the emission rate per product decreases, tourist consumption and economic output increase. As a result, goods and services with low GHG emissions that are predominantly utilised by the tourist industry may be considered to be environmentally and economically beneficial. Air travel has a higher environmental impact and lesser economic impact than other transit modes, such as lodging, dining, and drinking. Insofar as just transportation is concerned, air travel and passenger train travel have identical economic impacts; but, air travel is superior in terms of environmental load.

For these reasons, Japan must take actions to minimize GHG emissions for all tourism transportation-related products and services, including lodging, food and beverage, souvenirs, and transport technology. It is also essential to educate the relevant operators about environmental concerns and to aggressively reduce GHG emissions. Last but not least, it is critical to provide goods and services that passengers may choose from based on environmental labels and other kinds of labelling. Consumerism has evolved from products to experiences in recent years. Increasing experience consumption is also a good strategy for environmentally friendly tourism.

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and their influence at various life stages.

Figure 1. The chart below displays greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and their influence at various life stages.

Climate change

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) still considers the influence of tourism transportation on global warming to be a significant concern in the 21st century. When it comes to climate change and global warming, the tourist industry is very sensitive and a major contributor. As a result, boosting tourism’s ability to adapt to climate change is critical (World Tourism Organization, 2021). The globe is undergoing dramatic climatic change, which parallels the increase in tourism and travel. Since the second part of the 19th century, worldwide annual mean surface temperature has risen by 0.72°C/100 years (Ministry of the Environment et al., 2018). In addition, ocean warming accounts for more than 90 percent of the energy contained in the weather patterns between 1971 and 2010. A 0.53°C/100-year rise in global average annual sea surface temperature was observed between 1891 and 2016. Since 1979, Arctic sea-ice coverage has dropped substantially. According to the latest data, the annual minimum sea-ice coverage has decreased by an area the size of Hokkaido Island.

Temperatures on the surface of Japan have also risen at a pace of 1.2°C, with occasional oscillations, in the last century. Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, significant temperature increases were seen (Ministry of the Environment et al., 2018). For the years 1931 to 2016, the number of days per year with a maximum temperature of 30°C or higher (“manatsu-bi”) and 35°C or higher (“mosho-bi”) has grown. Every ten years, the number of “mosho-bi” grows by 0.2 days. The frequency of days with more than 100 millimeters of rain each day has gone up. According to AMeDAS (Automated Meteorological Statistics Acquisition System) data, the frequency of incidents with intense precipitation is also on the rise. Between 1962 and 2016, annual maximum snow depth declined by 12.3% and 14.6% on the eastern side of the Sea of Japan and by 14.6% on the western side of the Sea of Japan. As downpours have become more frequent in recent years, there is a growing concern for more severe slope collapses and new flooding patterns. For example, landslide dams are formed when rivers are obstructed, leading to large-scale destruction and floods when these dams break down.

Therefore, Japan’s increased vulnerability to natural disasters triggered by climate change such as severe typhoons and floods makes sustainability an important topic for the tourism transport sub-sector, given its huge contribution to GHG emissions. Suppose Japan wants to maintain its attractiveness as a destination in a climate-changed world. In that case, it must prioritize measures to cut GHG emissions and increase the sustainability of tourism and travel via technology, policies, and environmentally friendly infrastructure development.

Globalization issues

Development of international transport technology

Furthermore, tourism and globalization have been more intertwined in recent decades. It is easy to see how the rise of globalization has made it easier for tourists to travel throughout the world. Because of their emphasis on tourism as a revenue source, nations like Japan have become more vulnerable to global issues. Some of these challenges are beneficial, such as inbound tourism that helps local companies and infrastructure development, such as airports, ports, railroads, and roads. As transportation technology improved and mass travel became feasible on a national and worldwide scale, tourism grew. Key shifts or tipping moments have led to a significant increase in domestic and international travel and are represented as influencing tourism time-space reduction in conceptual terms. Since the world has grown more easily accessible for tourists, so has globalization, as no area of the globe is now more than a day flight away from the point of departure (Page and Ge, 2009).

The number of tourists visiting cities near major airports has skyrocketed with expanding transportation links to these hubs. For example, the number of visitors to metropolitan regions served by the expanded Shinkansen network soared significantly. In addition, the railroads’ modal share increased significantly (Kurihara and Wu, 2016). The model estimate result from Kurihara and Wu (2016) revealed that shorter distances, made possible by transportation infrastructure development, increase tourist demand to particular sites. In addition, data shows that the development and functioning of scenic trains has a substantial positive impact on tourism. Thus, traveling from one place to another using various forms of transportation is often considered a utilitarian act. Still, it also plays an important role in facilitating tourist transit within a particular location.

Thus, the different forms of transportation have an influence on international tourism in the following manner: The most common mode of transportation for foreign tourists is air travel, accounting for 43% of all journeys, followed by road transportation, rail travel, and sea transportation (Page and Ge, 2009). Tourists may now access international destinations formerly exclusively accessible by long-distance ocean voyages via air travel, the most recent innovation in tourist transportation. Air travel is a prominent illustration of the tourist industry’s globalization regarding national carriers collaborating on international networks and entering protected areas to lower investment costs.

Tourism relies heavily on air transportation, airport infrastructure, reliable and safe aviation services, and international air transport networks (Duval and Lohmann, 2011). Their growth and development directly fuel travel and globalization. For example, when it comes to foreign tourism, the percentage of leisure travel has increased from 50 in 2000 to 55 by 2019 (International tourism highlights, 2021). There has been a dramatic growth in air travel, from 46 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2019, while the percentage of land transportation has declined from 49 to 35 percent. Because of this, charter airlines have grown, new destinations and tourist markets have been opened, and places specialized as ports, hubs, or layover points have been developed (Lohmann and Duval, 2014). Demand for destinations is increased by low-cost airlines (LCCs) (Spasojevic, Lohmann, and Scott, 2017).

Since globalization has led to increased travel, it has contributed the most to tourism’s GHG emissions. GHG emissions from tourist transportation accounted for 56.3 percent of total emissions in 2017, broken out as follows: A total of 24.7 percent of the total effect was attributed to air travel, followed by Petrol (direct emissions) 16.9 percent, then Accommodation 9.8 percent, Food, and Beverage 7.5 percent, and Petrol (others) 6.1 percent (Kitamura et al., 2020).


On the other hand, globalization has allowed for faster-moving negative consequences than carbon emissions. Fast-spreading pandemics such as Covid-19, SARS, and H1N1 have occurred due to increased travel and tourism. An excellent place to start is the SARS pandemic in 2003. Because a coronavirus caused it, it may be compared to the current Covid-19 pandemic in epidemiology. Similarly, it began in South Asia and was the first pandemic in the era of globalization and the internet. Because it relies so heavily on people’s ability to move about, the tourist sector is particularly vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus (Yang, Zhang and Chen, 2020). For example, tourism was once one of the world’s largest markets; that is, until a pandemic struck the globe in the twenty-first century, COVID-19 (Uğur and Akbıyık, 2020). According to the Globe Health Organization (WHO), this flu pandemic has been dubbed the greatest post-World War II pandemic that has ever affected the world, exceeding the outbreaks of SARS, MERS, and Ebola (Matiza, 2020). As of right now, Covid-19 is still spreading over the globe, with approximately 260 million verified cases and more than five million fatalities in nearly 200 nations and territories worldwide. As of November 2021, there were over 18,000 Covid-19-related fatalities in Japan and more than 1.7 million confirmed cases (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2021).

Many experts believe that the COVID-19 virus was transmitted by air travel. Like with SARS, this has resulted in huge financial losses for air travel companies as countries enact lockdowns and travel bans to prevent the further spread of the disease (Matiza, 2020; Yang, Zhang, and Chen, 2020). These findings show that the tourist industry is vulnerable to global crises. Travelers opt to postpone or cancel their vacations on the same day that the news is disseminated. According to previous health problems, it will take longer for the transportation industry to recover fully. An international poll shows that individuals throughout the globe are feeling significant levels of worry and anxiousness (Abu-Rayash and Dincer, 2020). Anxiety and uneasiness will continue to plague many people once COVID-19 is over. Japan and other nations, including the UK, Canada, Brazil, and China, share this view (Matiza, 2020). Several high-profile events have already been rescheduled or canceled throughout the globe. The airline sector has decreased flight plans by over half due to the high frequency of cancellations (Uğur and Akbıyık, 2020).

However, the COVID-19 epidemic reduced world GHG emissions by 7% by 2020, demonstrating the enormous effort needed to meet Paris Agreement targets, which call for a 7% yearly reduction in emissions over the following decade (World Tourism Organization, 2021). Nonetheless, tourism-related CO2 emissions are expected to rise by 25 percent from 2016 levels by 2030, according to the most recent UNWTO/ITF analysis, which was published in December 2019 (World Tourism Organization, 2021). The need to step up climate action in tourism is thus more important than ever before since emissions might quickly return once operations are resumed. The long-term cost of inactivity on climate will be greater than the cost of any other disaster in the future.


According to the findings of this report, GHG emissions from tourism contribute to climate change and the environmental load. Although the tourist business provides an economic gain, it has an environmental disadvantage when it is flourishing. Because of this, it is critical for passengers to be able to choose modes of transportation and services that have less of an environmental footprint. However, Japan has to properly investigate and debate whether travel patterns can help reduce GHG emissions. To determine whether new travel modes are good for the environment, economy, and society, the government should perform CFP evaluations. Additionally, disease outbreaks and epidemics are the two most terrifying news stories for passengers or travel organizers. They have far-reaching effects on the whole business because of the globalization of travel and communications. Travelers, especially, have a significant impact on the spread of illnesses and pandemics facilitated by the globalization of tourism transport. The Internet allows millions of people worldwide to access critical information immediately, which has both advantages and dangers. The volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the global environment is becoming more difficult to ignore in the age of technological advancement. While travelers react to sudden changes immediately, tourism businesses need more time to prepare in such cases. A similar trend is developing regarding concerns for the environment in tourism. Tourists are starting to consider sustainability when planning their travels and destination. To survive in the tourist industry, Japan must invest in boosting sustainability in the sector and do accurate risk assessments and implement adequate crisis management plans.

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