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Business deals

Cool Japan Fund to invest $10m in Taiwanese travel site KKDay

Partnership to develop unique Japanese tours off the beaten track

International tourists visiting Japan are increasingly looking for alternatives to traditional sightseeing sites, such as the Jion waterfall in Oita Prefecture. (Photo by Mitsunori Narabu)

TOKYO -- The state-backed Cool Japan Fund will invest $10 million in Taiwanese travel booking platform KKDay, forming a partnership to develop off-grid vacation activities to attract repeat tourists, Nikkei has learned.

Unlike other online trip planners, which are usually limited to air tickets and hotel reservations, KKDay also connects users with locally run activities and cultural experiences. The startup maps out last-mile transportation options -- such as taxis and ride-hailing options -- so travelers can arrive at their destinations hassle-free.

KKDay, popular among Hongkongers as well as Taiwanese, sells vacation packages in 92 destination countries. However, the company reports that Japan draws roughly 40% of the bookings.

Cool Japan is public-private fund launched in 2013 that seeks to promote Japanese cultural exports. The fund's infusion will go toward expanding KKDay's local offices in Japan, and toward developing experiences that will connect vacationers with Japan's culture and natural beauty. Bicycle tours to tourist spots are also in the works. Cool Japan will collaborate by tapping its network of local government authorities to assist the projects.

By creating tours that are engaging to visitors, Japan hopes to boost tourist spending and have visitors extend their stays. H.I.S., Japan's leading travel agency, also owns a stake in the Taiwanese startup, along with other backers.

KKDay specializes in the travel activities space, which is distinct from air travel and accommodations -- areas dominated by established companies like Expedia. Although travel activities is an emerging market in terms of digital penetration, it is attracting a growing number of competitors.

Hong Kong rival Klook, the leader in the activity booking market, launched operations in Japan earlier this year. CTrip.com International, the largest travel booker in China, operates Trip.com, a Silicon Valley outfit with a presence in Japan. All seek to grow their share among tourists to Japan, whose numbers have roughly tripled in five years.

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