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Business Trends

Weibo and KDDI point the way for Chinese tourists in Japan

Location-based service will yield tips for visitors and data for advertisers

China was Japan's largest source of tourists last year, with the tally reaching 7.3 million.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Chinese social media giant Weibo has partnered with a subsidiary of Japanese telecom company KDDI to provide free information on tourist attractions and restaurants in Japan.

Weibo, known as China's Twitter, displays a range of news topics on its homepage, such as sports and gaming. Based on users' GPS location data, Chinese travelers to Japan will be served an extra category that translates to "Enjoy Japan to the fullest."

KDDI's public Wi-Fi provider Wire and Wireless, known as Wi2, has run a tourist information service for some time, but Chinese takeup has lagged due to Beijing's restrictions on internet usage. The arrangement with Weibo is expected to bring 300,000 monthly users after the launch next Tuesday.

The tie-up shows the emerging business potential for public Wi-Fi beyond internet connectivity, with the service combining content, advertising and data analysis.

Ads for department stores and drugstores will appear alongside over 100 articles on local events and suggested locations, with a portion of the click-through advertising revenue going to Weibo. Online advertising company Supership, another KDDI group member, will provide expertise. Data gathering will also extend to tourists' activities -- say, the sequence of spots they visit -- and sold on to businesses.

Chinese Weibo users visiting Japan will soon be served travel tips over free Wi-Fi.

The service itself is delivered through KDDI's au network, which maintains 200,000 public Wi-Fi hot spots across Japan. Visitors can access the network for free through an app called Travel Japan Wi-Fi, which also offers location-based tourist information -- some of which will be displayed on Weibo.

Wi2's service is little-known among Chinese travelers. It has been mainly promoted on Facebook and Google, which are blocked in China. Popular with visitors from Taiwan and Thailand, the app has 50,000 monthly users.

Chinese, though, account for the biggest proportion of tourists to Japan. Of the record 28.69 million visitors who came to the country last year, 7.35 million were from China, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Wi2's service gives advertisers a new way to reach this valuable group.

The Wi-Fi provider is exploring plans to continue serving ads after Chinese visitors return home, using data gathered from their advertisement viewing history. A traveler who makes a purchase at a Japanese drugstore might, two to three months later, be served ads for Japan-made face lotion or shampoo.

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