Hotels, travel services make better use of the Web

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo News

Although most travel agencies’ summer package tours are sold out, rooms at hotels and inns can still be booked via the Internet, an increasingly popular way for people to arrange their vacations.

Many hotel and travel service Web sites have special pages for the summer, providing detailed information on resorts across the country and offering special deals on stays at top hotels in central Tokyo.

One example is the My Trip Net page on the Tabino Madoguchi (Trips Window) site, Japan’s largest travel reservation site. Tokyo’s Rakuten business group began increasing leisure-activity information on the site last year, even though 70 percent to 80 percent of its users have been businesspeople.

“Reactions from customers during this year’s spring holiday were favorable,” said Takahiro Ogasawara, an executive of the group. “This summer, we want to greatly expand the number of customers.”

The group put a page on its site in May for the summer vacation season with a section describing 250 hot springs resorts throughout the country.

The information includes transportation information and things to see, as well as information from people who have visited the areas.

“We are proud of our detailed information not found in guidebooks,” he said.

Some of the services include being able to find a hotel a particular distance from the beach. “It’s a service only we can offer with the information we have on about 13,500 member hotels,” Ogasawara said.

Tokyo-based Ikkyu Co., specializing in top accommodations, also has a special summer page on its ikkyu.com booking site.

Keizo Asai, an executive in charge of sales and planning, said, “We provide many packages that make use of facilities that travel agencies cannot sell tours to on a large-scale basis.”

Also popular are special packages at luxury hotels in central Tokyo.

Since foreign businesspeople — the main clients — drop off in number in summer, luxury hotels offer free use of their swimming pools, which usually cost several thousand yen for guests, and discounts at hotel restaurants.

An Ikkyu official said: “Travel agencies fix prices and begin selling their packages several months in advance. But through the Internet, we can provide inexpensive rooms immediately before users want them.

“The booking ratio at top hotels in the heart of Tokyo through the Internet is 40 percent.”

Major travel agencies are also using the Internet.

JTB Corp. began a Web site in late June to bring together people, mainly senior citizens, with the same hobbies.

“But we also expect younger people to participate,” a JTB public relations official said.

Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. has a new plan in which users can collect points by making reservations on the Internet and is offering several Okinawa and Hokkaido tours that can only be booked on its Web site.

“We want to further strengthen our Net-related offerings,” an official said.