Amid the prolonged recession, taxi drivers, travel agencies and restaurateurs have been racking their brains to come up with ingenious ways to tempt consumers and companies to loosen their purse strings.
Many such desperate efforts go unrewarded. Some enterprises meanwhile are either unfazed or are enjoying a boom amid the slump. Travel agencies, which had long enjoyed sales increases thanks to the overseas trip boom, are suffering setbacks this year.
Even at Nippon Travel Agency Co., one of the nation’s major travel agencies, applications for overseas trips over the yearend holidays have dropped 4 percent from last season. “We are having more applications for domestic tours, such as those to hot-spa resorts. But the prices of those trips are much cheaper than those of overseas trips,” a spokesman for the agency said.
Low prices are now the key selling points. One leaflet advertises a two-day ski tour to Hokkaido for less than 30,000 yen, an unthinkable price a few years ago.
Corporate cost-cutting efforts are meanwhile taking their toll on taxi drivers.Sales of taxi tickets, which are usually contracted by corporate users, have decreased by hundreds of thousands of yen yearly, according to an association of Tokyo-based cabbies.
But as many in the service sector face difficulty luring customers, there remain some exceptions.
“Kaiten-zushi” restaurants — self-serve premises where customers select sushi dishes from a rotating conveyor belt — appear completely indifferent to the economic slump.
Tokyo Kozo-zushi, a kaiten-zushi chain, has been enjoying double-digit sales increases during the past few years.
A Kozo-zushi spokesman attributes the success partly to the renovation of its shops to include booths that can seat six people, in addition to the conventional counter along the sushi conveyor.
Many kaiten-zushi shops serve fish they purchase directly from the market, instead of through a distribution chain, he said, noting the overall image of such restaurants has improved.
The spokesman also accredited the popularity of such shops to their “price clarity.” Unlike traditional sushi restaurants, where customers learn the price only when they ask for the bill, at kaiten-zushi shops, they can easily calculate the bill by counting the number of dishes they take.
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