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U.S., Japanese businesses competing to provide online services to foreign visitors in Japan

  • 2015-11-10 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: November 10, 2015 – p. 8)

 

 By Mari Fujisaki, staff writer

 

 With the rapid increase in the number of foreign travelers in Japan, U.S. and Japanese companies offering online services are engaging in a fierce battle to attract customers. Japanese companies are focusing on upgrading their services in foreign languages while American companies are working hard to enhance the scope of their online reservation sites for restaurants and hotels.

 

 Nihon Kotsu, one of Japan’s largest taxi companies, has had their drivers practice the phrase, “Can I close the door?” in English during roll call six times a month since this spring. In addition to offering their drivers English conversation courses, the company has also provided their drivers with apps so they can study English in their free time between customers. In autumn 2013, the company also launched an English version of Japan Taxi, a taxi calling app.

 

 They are keeping an eye on the American company Uber, which arranges rides for customers in over 60 nations worldwide. Uber entered the Japanese market last year, and now 30% of Uber’s customers in Japan are foreigners.

 

 Starting this year, restaurant site Gurunavi (Gourmet Navigator) has been offering courses to teach restaurant owners how to automatically translate the names of items frequently found on menus into English and other languages.

 

 Improving advertising overseas

 

 Jalan.net, a travel site operated by Japan’s Recruit, has been focusing on Internet advertising overseas. From the end of last fiscal year, they have been placing ads in the U.K., Australia, and Singapore.

 

 Meanwhile, Expedia, a U.S. travel site, is attempting to dramatically increase the number of hotels in Japan registered with the site from the current 4,000. To further expand its business, this year it set up offices in four locations, including Nagoya and Fukuoka.

 

 To date, OpenTable, a U.S. restaurant-reservation service, has only provided Japanese-language listings of restaurants located in Japan. They have now started test-operation of an English-language version with the aim of launching this service for the foreign community within the year. OpenTable is also focusing on increasing its listings of restaurants specializing in Japanese food.

 

 Searching for business partners

 

 Some companies are also moving to create “Japan-U.S. business tie-ups.” Gurunavi is planning a tie-up with TripAdvisor, a U.S. travel site that features reviews by users. Expedia is looking into joining hands with Japan’s JTB to create foreign-language listings for ryokans (Japanese-style inns).

 

 The number of foreign travelers visiting Japan exceeded 14.48 million in September this year, surpassing the historic high set last year. Japan faces the challenge of publicizing its services to people overseas, while the U.S. confronts the issue of how to expand its listings of restaurants and hotels in Japan.

 

 

 

 Features of Japanese and American online services for foreign travelers in Japan

Restaurants

Japan

Gurunavi

Lists 500,000 restaurants nationwide. Some member restaurants have sites in English and other languages.

U.S.

OpenTable

Restaurant-reservation site featuring more than 32,000 restaurants worldwide and 1,500 in Japan.

Hotels

Japan

Jalan.net

Lists about 24,000 hotels and ryokans nationwide.

Rakuten Travel

Will be able to handle 12 languages by next fiscal year.

U.S.

Expedia

If a price on Expedia is higher than that at another site, Expedia will refund twice the difference in cost to the customer.

Taxis

Japan

Japan Taxi

 

(Nihon Kotsu Group)

Over 24,000 taxis nationwide. Taxis can be booked in advance.

U.S

Uber

Now operating in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

Maps

Japan

DigJapan! (Shobunsha Publications, Inc.)

GPS-powered service that allows users to confirm their current location and their destination.

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