TOKYO -- Japanese logistics companies are vying to take tourists' luggage off their hands with enhanced travel services geared for Asian and other visitors, offering features including mobile payment.
In November, Sagawa Express began accepting Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings' mobile wallet WeChat Pay at a baggage-free tourist service center in Shinjuku, downtown Tokyo. This convenience allows the app's more than 800 million users to pay via smartphone, thanks to an agreement between Tencent and a unit of Sagawa parent SG Holdings.
Yamato Holdings, Japan's top parcel courier, has teamed up with travel agency JTB and electronics company Panasonic to offer a service they call Luggage-Free Travel, which totes travelers' bags between destinations such as hotels and airports. A selling point of the service, which starts Friday, is that users can enter destinations for their bags in advance online, eliminating the need to fill out Japanese paperwork. Panasonic will run the information technology side of the operation.
Bags will cost 2,000 yen ($17) or more apiece to deliver. At first, the service will be available only to JTB tour customers, but individual travelers will gain access in February. English-language support will be available from the start, with Chinese and Korean to follow in April.
In December, Japan Post launched hands-free sightseeing services out of the Kyoto Central Post Office, charging tourists 600 yen per item per day to store their luggage there or 1,500 yen apiece to ship it to certain lodgings in the city. English and Chinese are spoken at the service center.
For logistics groups, such services present a high-margin opportunity to cater to a largely untapped market segment. As of November, Japan had more than 200 locations offering so-called hands-free travel services, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Yamato had 29 such centers, while Sagawa had 11. Other players include travel agency H.I.S. and duty-free shop operator Laox.