Terrie's Take 830 (Tourism Edition) -- Japantravel.com Hits 1, 000, 000 Unique Users Per Month

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Nov 29 23:05:20 JST 2015

* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie 
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, Nov 29, 2015, Issue No. 830

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+++ Japantravel.com Hits 1,000,000 Unique Users Per Month

I thought it would be timely to update readers on our progress with the 
www.japantravel.com business. The site is growing dramatically alongside 
the remarkable growth in the inbound travel sector overall. Last month 
we had more than 6.9m page views from 1.06m unique users mostly located 
in North America, SE Asia, and Europe. We also had 9,132 contributors 
producing stories, photos, and videos for us in 11 different languages.

I'm not sure if this makes us the largest inbound travel portal for 
Japan yet, in that the incumbent www.japan-guide.com may still be 
larger. However, in terms of momentum, we are clearly the growth story 
in the sector.

Although a competitor, I can say that Japan Guide is a great site, and 
its principals have been extremely diligent in producing useful 
information for tourists. Their site is a constant reminder to us that 
there are many areas we still need to improve on in terms of structure 
and ease-of-use, and, yep, we're working on that. But what they don't 
have is a massive community of passionate contributors who can cover the 
entire length and breadth of the country. No matter where you want to 
go, probably we have a story covering that location. As of today, Sunday 
Nov 29, 2015, we have 22,384 articles and 110,527 photos up online. 
These days a successful vertical portal can't just be a webpage and a 
forum, you need to have deep functionality and a unique edge in 
producing content as well.

My original concept for Japantravel.com (or, japantourist.jp as it was 
called when the site first started out) was to finance the portal from 
advertising revenues. Back in 2011, you could still get JPY200-300 per 
thousand impressions, which when combined with writing services should 
have produced revenues of JPY3-5m per month, an amount that I felt could 
support a small but strong team of community managers, technologists, 
and marketers. What I underestimated over that first couple of years, 
though, was the impact of the realtime ad bidding networks, which have 
killed niche sectors like ours and ad rates in general, as well as the 
lack of market depth for inbound travel advertising.

Perhaps the shallow media demand isn't surprising, as it wasn't until 
Tokyo won the rights to host the 2020 Olympics in September 2013, and 
Abe wrestled the yen down by 38% from 2011 prices, that inbound tourism 
started to boom. In other words, this boom is just two calendar years 
old and in terms of economic cycles it is only one full fiscal year old. 
So budgets and preparation by Japanese corporates to invest in the 
inbound travel market are just getting kicked off now.

Therefore, I expect the advertising market for inbound travel media to 
increase substantially over the next couple of years.

[Continued below...]

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Now that the inbound tourism sector is covered in the Japanese press 
every day, you can feel the excitement and anticipation build among 
large Japanese companies. From the many meetings that I've had over the 
last 12 months (about 5-10 a week), I think there will be a 3x surge in 
advertising spending from next year, with the monetary amounts cresting 
in 2019 and 2020. Certainly I can see Japan's major advertising 
companies gearing up for this -- which of course is a happy scenario for us.

But while the future looks somewhat promising, start-up companies don't 
survive on future promises alone. We need revenues to pay today's bills, 
and creating such income out of media has been a challenge. Thus we have 
had to track back to the money source, which at present is the travel 
services sector itself. There is a flood of foreign inbound travelers 
wanting accommodation, transport, interpreting, telecommunications, and 
many other services. Almost all of these activities require licenses of 
some kind, although in the case of Airbnb-style accommodation, 
deregulation is on the way.

Therefore, earlier this year, I resolved to extend Japan Travel to 
becoming a travel services planner and provider. For this reason we 
applied for a Type II license which was received last week, on November 
19th, 2015. There are four types of travel agent licenses, with the most 
flexible being a Type I license. The problem is that this level requires 
up to a JPY70m "big boy" deposit -- so it's out of our league. Luckily, 
the much more reasonably priced Type II licenses allow almost the same 
list of services other than being able to create outbound tour packages, 
which we don't do anyway.

Being a travel agent doesn't mean Japan Travel will somehow merge with 
the crowd (that wouldn't be very entrepreneurial!). Rather, with the 
license we will focus on developing interesting niche sectors that are 
not well serviced by foreign-facing agencies: from sports and events 
travel, to religious and traditional arts tours. Our main target will be 
FIT travelers, meaning that our tours will be self-guided and basically 
involve online planning, purchasing from multiple options, 
pre-registrations, and other core support services. Although we will do 
the usual hotels-and-buses arrangements when requested.

As an example, I personally love cycling, so we're working towards 
building a network of collaborating vendors who can help us create 
iconic cycling experiences. Our value-add points will be everything from 
recruiting country-side onsen that don't normally take foreigners, to 
providing day-ahead luggage delivery, walkie talkie-equipped support 
vehicles, spare high-grade bikes and parts, personal medical data and 
injury support, a bilingual call-in service, and guides who cycle with 
the group. We hope that by having strong logistics and functionality we 
will appeal to serious cyclists and make it harder for the copycats to 
move in.

A recent collaboration partner is the Reevo company in Fukuoka 
(http://reevo.jp), which supplies camper vans all over Japan. There are 
already several camper van rental businesses on the web that service 
foreigners, but they are small operations in just one or two cities. 
Reevo on the other hand offers vehicles in 230+ locations all over the 
country, and has a reservations system knitting them all together. Their 
only problem is that they are set up to service Japanese travelers, not 

With our new deal, Japan Travel will translate Reevo content into 
English, using our crowd of several thousand contributor-translators, 
then sell their unique rental service and self-guided tours to the 
inbound public. While we don't necessarily need a travel agent license 
to create this kind of inventory, it is a grey area and once we include 
marketing into the mix it starts to look very much like a tours 
business. So I felt it was prudent to get us licensed.

We have similar tie-ups going on with many other Japanese travel 
services companies, which will be publicly announced in due course.

Now that Japan Travel is stepping beyond the portal-only business, some 
interesting discussions are starting to emerge, and I'm just starting to 
realize just how vast the travel sector is. A good case in point is 
tourist accommodation. If you're an inbound group of, say, 20 people or 
more, you can't book a hotel in Kyoto for next April (2016), now. All 
available rooms in any volume at a single location are already booked 
solid. Therefore, I believe that even though Airbnb-style deregulation 
is currently limited to Tokyo and Osaka, chronic accommodation shortages 
will mean that it won't be long before we see a similar revolution 
taking place in the outskirts of Kyoto and other iconic destinations 
like Nara, Matsumoto, and Sapporo. This of course has the real estate 
developers excited, because land and buildings in the hinterland are 
still very cheap, and they are all trying to guess where the next 
popular destination will be. Hopefully we can play a role in steering 
tourist flow to them.

So evolving from just being an inbound travel community portal, Japan 
Travel is growing into three distinct businesses: online/mobile 
marketing, travel services, and consulting. All three businesses will 
significantly leverage the www.japantravel.com portal traffic, either 
for sales or research, and so the portal itself will continue as a core 
part of our operation. Indeed, we are building Japan-fan contributor 
communities all over the world, with special focus in Asia, so that we 
can continue to create lots of compelling new content, along with better 
software functionality and User Experience (UX), and a full line-up of 
competitively-priced travel services.

I admit that pushing into these new areas is a bit nerve wracking (lots 
of new stuff to learn), but at the same time by expanding our income 
base we are creating more stability and expandability for the future. 
I'll provide more reports on Japan Travel's development in 2016.


Lastly, there are so many niche business opportunities involving 
servicing inbound tourists that if I wasn't already busy with Japan 
Travel, I'd be surveying inbound travelers to see what else they need. 
For example, how many travelers come to Japan as a result of a personal 
celebration of some kind? A honeymoon, wedding anniversary, exam pass, 
coming of age, or business deal maybe? And how many of them celebrate 
with flowers, custom cakes, champagne, or high-end wines? Surprisingly, 
though, fast daily deliveries to inbound travelers at their hotel or 
apartment are not yet commonplace, unless you're staying in a high-end 
hotel where you can call down to the concierge. Rather, if you're in an 
Airbnb location, you have to deal with language challenges and fend for 
yourself. That's why I love talking to strategic-thinking vendors like 
Robert Rann's GrapeOff (www.grapeoff.com). They're not in the "instant 
delivery" business yet, but I would not be surprised if they were to 
start such a service (OK, that's just my personal suggestion). In the 
meantime, though, they do have some nice bottles to celebrate with, per 
their campaign below... :-)

...The information janitors/


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---------------- ICA Event - December 2nd -----------------

Title: "Wednesday December 2nd, 2015 - ICA Japan End of Year Bonenkai"

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/

Date: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Time: 19:30pm to 22:30pm - Doors open. As a set menu it will include 
multitude of food including Beers, Wines, Juices, Shochu and Soft Drinks 
Cost: 5,500 yen - Open to all. No sign ups at the door!!!!!!! First 
registered will secure a place as seats are very limited.
RSVP: By 4pm on Friday 27th November, 2015. Venue is Andy's Shin 
Hinomoto at Yurakucho.



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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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