March 20, 2017 2:30 am JST

Venerable Japan travel agency brings back tour guides for Asia

Seasoned conductors included to reassure older travelers

O NIINUMA, Nikkei staff writer

Jiufen, a popular Taiwanese tourist destination. Taiwan is one of the places where Nippon Travel Agency will offer new guided tours.

TOKYO -- One of Japan's oldest tour operators will revive guided trips to Asia this spring, to meet the needs of senior citizens seeking greater peace of mind when travelling.

Beginning with April departure dates, Nippon Travel Agency is offering a new lineup of holiday packages to seniors. Three of those will be led by tour conductors, including a tour of India's World Heritage Sites and an excursion to Taiwan.

Vacationing alone or with family or friends has become the mainstream for Japanese travelling in Asia, and Nippon Travel Agency says it had not offered guided tours for a while.

The Indian package with a conductor will be an eight-day trip costing 260,000 yen to 300,000 yen ($2,300 to 2,700). It will be offered five times from July through October and include a visit to the Taj Mahal on a moonlit night. Participants will take in a total of seven World Heritage sites, including Agra Fort and Amer Fort.

A tour conductor will accompany each group from airport departure through its return to Japan. An experienced traveler, the conductor can help in the event that trouble arises, such as a flight cancellation or poor hotel accommodations.

The travel agency will also offer more packages led by experienced local guides. It plans to offer 19 journeys featuring guides having at least five years experience, nine more packages than in the past.

In addition, it is broadening what it calls its "ultimate" package lineup. First available in May 2016, these tours feature highlights such as stays at hotels for which reservations are difficult to come by. In January, Nippon Travel Agency began selling voyages on luxury cruise ships.

The cruises have been well received. Bookings for "ultimate" packages in the first two months of 2017 were already 60% higher than the seven-month total for last year.

Senior citizens with an abundance of time and money and a keen interest in travel are an important clientele for Nippon Travel Agency. People age 50 and older account for more than 30% of its tour package customers. Under a four-year business plan unveiled late last year and running through fiscal 2020, the company aims to roughly double the value of travel products sold to seniors to around 10 billion yen.

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