The tides are shifting for Japan, fresh from a persistent state of Covid-19 emergency for the first time in six months, as the nation's travel industry gets ready to address the challenges of opening its doors to global tourism.
It has been a long and gruelling journey that has not spared even the big travel companies, such as for Eijiro Yamakita, President and CEO of JTB Corporation, which sold its Tokyo headquarters and another building in Osaka, reduced its headcount by 7,200 employees and shut down 150 domestic outputs.
Speaking at WiT Experience Singapore 2021 to host Yeoh Siew Hoon,
Yamakita agreed that it has been a brutal year but he has an optimistic outlook for the future of Japan’s tourism industry. “Now that the vaccination rate is at 67% of Japan’s population, the stable movement of the government to reopen cross-border trips will help trigger the travel recovery.
“There’s a bright future ahead."
Japanese travel specialists share their thoughts on how Covid-19's disruption has influenced the way different travel brands are thinking of the future.
Winning over the endemic traveller through strong digital connections
In the face of restrictive and ever-changing travel corridors, the global travel industry has to innovate and remodel holidays around catering to the new demands and expectations of travellers.
The endemic traveller is expected to be more concerned with personal needs rather than choose holidays based on destination or attractions. They will have much higher expectations of travel service providers and will be much more demanding.
In order to keep up, Yamakita said that JTB seeks to prioritise and improve JTB’s customer services and experiences, and this critical period presents “a very good opportunity for us to improve our capabilities at managing each destination which will help to improve customer experiences, that goes beyond travel bookings".
“What we need to do is to improve the customer experience on a comprehensive scale which involves overseeing all aspects of their travel — before the trip, during the trip and after the trip.”
Yamakita also emphasised that following each traveller’s travel plans from the beginning to the end is important in securing brand loyalty.
For Kei Shibata, CEO of Venture Republic (TRAVEL.jp and Trip101), he believes that “there is no better time for creating new products and setting up a new niche than now” because this is an era where companies will have to “reset a lot of assumptions in the market”.
“Corporate businesses should explore new solutions in business travel bookings and management by leveraging technologies, since corporate clients no longer want to rely on making a phone call or sending an email to travel agencies, and they want the process digitised instead,” Shibata added.
With this shift in focus, it is hoped Japan emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever and breaks new ground in the global travel industry by reinventing the digital travel experience.