Surprising trends in air travel
I’d first like to correct one point from an earlier post on Chinese airline travel. I suggested that Michael Pettis believed the Chinese government was somehow faking the GDP growth data, which is not accurate. Pettis did not question the fact that Chinese statisticians were measuring some sort of economic activity, rather he argued that a substantial portion of this activity had little economic value, due to misallocation of resources. He views reported GDP growth as more of an input into the system, which may or may not be effective at producing useful output.
Tim Peach sent me an interesting article on international air travel:
This is one of those dynamic (moving) graphs that I find kind of mesmerizing. (Like those moving graphs of world history over the past 5000 years.) The top 8 countries were not that surprising; the European big four plus the US, China, Russia and Canada. But where is Japan? The ninth country is South Korea, followed by lowly Ukraine. Sweden makes the list with fewer than 10 million people, while Japan has 126 million. Even worse, airlines are basically the only way for the Japanese to visit other countries, whereas Europeans can travel internationally by train or car.
I hit replay, and tried to take a quick screenshot:
Now Japan’s well up the list at number 7. But no South Korea. Even today, Japan is slightly richer than South Korea, and 2.5 times as populous. Does anyone know what’s going on with Japan?
Perhaps the Japanese did some travel in the boom years, and then decided there was no point in leaving home. When I visited Japan last year I noticed that the people were extremely polite, and things like trains and subways tended to work perfectly. To the Japanese, the rest of the world must seem barbaric. Or perhaps the Japanese worry that their limited skills in speaking English will be a drawback.
PS. In the early 1400s, the Chinese sent a huge armada under Admiral Zheng He across the India Ocean, and then decided the rest of the world had nothing of interest. They stopped exploring.
PPS. I presume the UK figures are inflated by London being a stopover point to Europe. And the hub and spoke system might inflate some of the other European countries as well. But five years ago, I flew to Singapore via Tokyo, so even the Japanese figures are a bit inflated. Also note that Japan has recently seen a huge boom in inbound tourism.