TOKYO -- Japanese travel agency JTB will acquire Hawaiian travel and event management specialist MC&A in a bid to expand a presence in conferences and other business functions.
JTB will buy all of MC&A's shares from U.S. investment company Seattle Hospitality Group in January for several billion yen.
Hawaii is a popular destination for incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions -- a segment known as MICE in the industry -- with demand estimated at more than 400,000 people per year. MC&A, founded in 1983, is a local leader in this area, serving about 500,000 customers annually, generating nearly $60 million in revenue in 2015.
The deal lets the travel agency incorporate Hawaii's unique offerings, like beaches and golf courses, into its MICE operations. Hawaii carries a special weight for JTB, which has offered travel to the U.S. islands over a half century since 1964, when Japanese were first allowed to travel abroad for leisure. JTB serves about 30% of Japanese travelers to Hawaii, or 400,000 of some 1.5 million people per year.
Hawaii is popular among Asians as a safe destination. JTB hopes to win more business from companies in China and South Korea, in addition to Japan.
Competition in Hawaii is intense, with rivals such as H.I.S. also stepping up operations. JTB hopes the acquisition allows it to broaden its customer base and pull away from rivals. In fiscal 2015, JTB's business serving foreigners generated around 230 billion yen ($2.22 billion) in sales, up around 3% on the year.