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- Efforts of Tokyo Travel Partners
Efforts of Tokyo Travel Partners 14F Shinjuku Bunka Quint Building,3-22-7 Yoyogi,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo
The widespread of COVID-19 brought huge damage to the travel industry. As more and more companies decided to close their business, a company started a new business model, online tour, to provide “travel” to their customers. Tokyo Travel Partners is the company which provides traveling services to elderly-care facilities. Shigeyuku Kurihara, the CEO of Tokyo Travel Partners, and Tetsuya Kawaguchi, the manager, told us their attempts.
Start from elderly-care tours
Tokyo Travel Partners was established in 2016, under the Shimada Group which involves real estate and elder care business. It all started when an elderly home under the same group asked if the company could bring the residents on a trip. Tokyo Travel Partners then made a survey and found out that more than 70% of the residents ‘want to travel’ but only about 10% answered they ‘traveled’ to the question ‘did you travel within a year’. The desire to fulfill their wishes made him start the elderly-care tour ‘Tabisuke’.
Enoshima was chosen as the destination of the first collective tour. When he asked the clients where they wanted to go, many of them answered they ‘want to see the sea’, so he decided to go to Enoshima, which is near the sea and close to Tokyo. Also, there is an aquarium as a plan b in case of bad weather, and the facility is in universal design. The participants said with a smile that ‘I have not thought that I could travel after entering the facility’, ‘It was fun. Next time I want to eat eel’.
Issues and solutions of elderly-care tours
Issues of elderly-care tours are the need of lift-equipped buses and helping staff. As a result, the fewer the number of participants, the higher the tour fee. Besides, for group tours using lift-equipped buses, there are operational problems like the time for the toilet during highways takes around 40-50 minutes, the distance from bus parking to the sightseeing spot is long. In view of this, we arranged our own welfare vehicles and registered them as nursing care taxis, so that even a small number of participants could join the tour. The merit of possessing our own taxis is the low cost to offer tours at a reasonable price. Also, a taxi is more flexible that it can stop near the destination, which is good for the passengers. Currently, based on the needs of our customers, we have around a hundred universal-designed tours. These are modified from existing tours to universal design and accumulated in our database. All are discussed, decided and arranged by our certificated staff such as physical therapists and care workers.
Model shift to online tour
The most popular need is ‘seeing cherry blossoms’. Every year bookings are full at the early stage. Yet in 2020, due to the COVID-19, there were many cancellations before the cherry blossom season. Still we wanted to show the cherry blossoms to people who were looking forward to it, so we thought of making online tours. The video quality of the first online tour was not as good as expected. We used an online meeting tool for a live broadcast. The signal was not stable and the bad image quality could not express the beauty of cherry blossoms. As expected, the satisfaction of customers did not rise. Yet, we know that there are customers looking forward to it so we decided to ‘aim at quality online tours which can deliver the joy of travel’.
Now in order to deliver beautiful live video, we bought professional equipment used by broadcasters to provide full HD images. We are also particular about filming so we use professional photographers. At the beginning, the service was provided free to elderly-care facilities and medical staff. From September 2021, we started a membership service ‘Tabisuke chan channel’ to provide online tours to free members and paid members. Our customers are not only from elderly-care facilities, but also seniors at home and their families. Now we also provide free online tours to special-needs schools as a part of lessons.
Currently, we also have few exclusive reporters. One female reporter is a wheelchair user and a fixed member for broadcast at special-needs schools. Sometimes she swims with dolphins at Kochi, and sometimes she does canoeing. The challenging gestures of a wheelchair user give students dreams that ‘they may also challenge themselves in the future’. Students feel an affinity with her and see her as ‘Onesan’ (sister in Japanese).
As an elderly-care travel agency
Our mission is ‘to aim at a society where all people can enjoy traveling easily’. Now many clients are enjoying our online tours. Yet, we got a lot of comments like ‘we want to travel real soon’. We are now preparing for the restart of real travel. For example, we only had tour details on pamphlets or flyers before, so we are building a system that people can see the tour details and apply on our website. When you want to travel, you can visit the homepage of Tabisuke to find out about various universal-designed tours and apply easily. This is our goal.
It might be difficult for residents in elderly homes to travel immediately, so we will continue to deliver the joy of travel through online tours mainly. Once travel is ready, we will put strength into both real tours and online tours.
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