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Business

JTB to participate in venture investment fund

Travel agency aims to expand into new businesses

Beyond travel flyers like these, JTB now aggressively pursues tourists by investing in venture incubator fund.

TOKYO -- Travel agency JTB will invest in a venture incubator fund as part of a strategy to draw more tourists to Japan and branch out to non-travel fields.

The fund is being launched by independent venture capital company Global Brain, and will begin operating this month with around 15 billion yen ($131 million) in capital. In addition to JTB, more than 10 companies and universities are investing in the fund, including Mitsui Sumitomo Banking, Sumitomo Forestry, Information Services International-Dentsu, and the public-private entity Cool Japan Fund.

Anticipated to be in operation for 10 years, the fund will look for information technology ventures in Japan and abroad, with the aim of investing in 70-80 companies. The participants will invest 200 million yen to 1 billion yen each.

JTB, which will invest several billion yen, plans to team with a number of ventures to disseminate tourism information using augmented reality and virtual reality technology, to draw more visitors to Japan. It is also planning settlement services through FinTech, the fusion of finance and IT. One aim is use of such technology at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The hope is to utilize JTB's store network and customer base in fields beyond travel. In the elderly care field, life support services and health management and counseling systems that use IT to accumulate data are envisioned. Another field being considered is support for local businesses by soliciting business funds through crowdfunding and also by expanding sales routes for locally produced farm products through use of e-commerce.

Traditional players in the travel industry are facing stiff competition from Internet-only companies. In addition, Japan's population is declining, so the domestic market is projected to taper off in the future. For those reasons, JTB is launching initiatives to revitalize the domestic market.

In October, it established a marketing company in partnership with Nippon Express and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings to produce public relations materials for Japanese products and tourist destinations to draw tourists to Japan. It is also participating in the golf travel business for foreigners visiting Japan, in league with a major golf website. It hopes to invest in venture businesses to cultivate new business territory beyond travel.

The new fund aims not just to distribute earnings beyond investment principal to fund participants but also foster cooperation with ventures and help launch new businesses. Global Brain will also introduce promising ventures to major investors and support initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions of ventures.

(Nikkei)

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