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The fifth wave of COVID-19 may have finally ebbed in Japan, but the tourism industry is expected to continue to face tough times.

In an effort to reach out to consumers, Peach Aviation Ltd., an Osaka-based budget airline, has rolled out an unorthodox marketing campaign to stimulate travel demand — letting a gachapon capsule decide your travel destination.

A gachapon vending machine, which would usually dispense small toys rather than vacation spots, first debuted in Osaka in mid-August, and contrary to Peach’s expectations, it has been gaining in popularity.

Many in the company thought that “promoting trips where travelers can’t choose the destination probably wouldn’t fly. We were thinking that it would be alright if we could sell one capsule per day,” said Shuntaro Kosasa, brand manager at Peach’s branding and communication department.

“Yet the gachapon suddenly became hot (through social media) and we are really surprised.”

The airline has sold more than 3,000 capsules over the past couple of months, saying that as many as about 150 were sold in one day.

It costs ¥5,000 to purchase a capsule, which contains a piece of paper designating a travel destination and a promotion code awarding points to be used toward the purchase of Peach airline tickets to the location received.

In most cases and at a minimum, customers receive 6,000 points, with each point equivalent to a yen, so they are often getting a ¥1,000 discount. Some capsules offer more than 6,000 points, airline officials said, but they declined to share specific figures.

Travel destinations are chosen from Peach Aviation’s domestic flight routes, such as Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Naha.

People can buy round trip tickets for many of Peach’s domestic flights for less than ¥6,000 when they are on special sale.

Kosasa added that Peach launched the gachapon machine with the intention of offering something fun amid the depressing mood of the pandemic while enabling the airline to communicate with customers.

On Wednesday, Peach set up its second machine at the Parco department store in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Underscoring its popularity, dozens of people lined up for a capsule.

“Depending on the distance, it could be hit or miss, but it’s kind of exciting to let (the machine) decide the location and travel there. I think this is a really interesting idea,” said Atsushi Osawa from Kanagawa Prefecture, who is in his 50s and bought a gachapon on Wednesday.

Osawa’s destination was Memanbetsu Airport in the town of Ozora, northeast Hokkaido, where he has never been.

Since winter is coming, he was hoping that he would be able to travel to somewhere in the south, but he wasn’t displeased. “I would probably never voluntarily choose to visit (Ozora), so I look forward to it,” he said.

The gachapon machine in Osaka, which is installed at the Shinsaibashi Parco department store, offers 13 routes from Kansai Airport, while the machine in Shibuya offers 11 routes from Narita Airport.

Peach said the gachapon machine in Shibuya will be available until the end of December. The airline also said it is considering setting up more machines in other locations.

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