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Business

Japan's travel sites cater more activities to foreigners

Menus and languages expanded as tourists choose private trips over group tours

Tourists make mochi, Japanese rice cakes, at a typical experience-based travel activity.

TOKYO -- Travel companies here are bolstering their offerings of Japanese leisure activities such as canoeing, soba noodle making and pottery, as foreign travelers, especially repeat visitors, seek out such unique experiences.

Travel sites -- including those backed by travel agencies JTB and H.I.S., and e-commerce and travel site Rakuten -- are upgrading their language options and activity offerings, as well as expanding their overseas sales.

Asoview, an experience-based travel booking site in which JTB holds a stake, will form a business tie-up with Taiwan's Lion Travel within the month. Lion will offer Asoview products on its website and at its physical locations, and customers will be able to book and pay in advance via credit card.

Asoview offers over 15,000 experiences in its Japanese language section, but for those in Chinese-speaking areas, including Taiwan, it will initially offer nearly 40 activities. These will include neighborhood walks in traditional Japanese wear for roughly 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen ($44.04 to $88.08), or pottery-making for around 2,000 to 3,000 yen.

H.I.S. has added the English-language option at the website of subsidiary Activity Japan, and will add Chinese and Thai versions this month. It will also sell products through H.I.S. outlets across the globe. The travel agency has redone Activity Japan's homepage to prominently feature seasonal activities such as snowshoeing.

Rakuten's Voyagin unit has started a service where specialty staff create personalized programs, targeting corporate outings such as company retreats. Activities being offered include observing early-morning sumo practices, being packed into a crowded train, and eating meals with geisha. These outings will involve group work designed to promote team building.

Unlike tour packages, experience-based leisure generally involves smaller groups and is more susceptible to cancellations over bad weather, making it difficult to manage. Booking sites are helping spread the phenomenon by improving their offerings.

(Nikkei)

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