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New service connects Japanese travelers to compatriots living abroad

Chunichi Shimbun

A website created by a Nagoya-based venture firm offering help from Japanese living overseas is gaining popularity with travelers.

Traveloco has over 10,000 Japanese living in 140 countries registered on its site, offering services that meet a range needs of Japanese travelers — from taking honeymoon photos for newlyweds to conducting price negotiations for business travelers.

“We were able to communicate accurately even with the use of construction terminology,” said an employee of Tanihata Co. who used the service during a visit to Paris in January.

The traditional wooden lattice works created by the wooden fittings manufacturer based in Toyama Prefecture have been well-received in Europe for their delicate and beautiful designs. Since orders from abroad have grown, company officials decided to travel to Paris for market research, including visiting an interior trade fair and studying the city’s architecture.

Tanihata officials came across Traveloco when they were searching online for a local tour guide and interpreter, and found a Japanese woman living in Paris registered on the website.

Her profile showed that she has lived in Paris for 10 years and is a certified architect in both Japan and France with an expertise in French architecture; she was exactly who they were looking for.

The website launched in January 2014 by 40-year-old Yutaka Shiiya, president of Traveloco.

Shiiya, who had previous experience at a different company operating a website that provides information on traveling abroad, said he decided to create the website to utilize the backgrounds and skills of the countless Japanese abroad.

As of May, there are some 11,000 Japanese people registered on the site with detailed information on their location, languages spoken, expertise and so on.

Customers in Japan can search by country or region for candidates who match their needs and send inquiries or requests directly.

The fee is decided between the two parties and payment is made via Traveloco.

In addition to the fee, the customers will also pay about a 10 percent commission to Traveloco. The company also takes 20 percent of the fee paid to service providers.

“Since we limit service providers to Japanese people, there are few communication problems deriving from differences in values or nuances, even though the two parties have never met before,” Shiiya said.

He said 90 percent of the users said they were satisfied with the service they received.

About 1,000 transactions were concluded through the site in May, double the number from a year before, and half of the services provided are business-related, according to Traveloco.

“In the future, I hope our website will become a service used by at least 10 percent of all Japanese travelers going abroad,” Shiiya said.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on June 24.