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Efforts of New Japan Tourist Co., Ltd. 3-8-5, Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Travels with New Value by Leveraging Its Experience from Conducting Tours

39 Years of History Centered on Group Tours

New Japan Tourist Co., Ltd. has focused its business on agent-organized tours in Japan, and off-campus learning and training trips using charter buses for customers ranging from kindergartens to universities. Despite being a small company with a total staff of seven people, it has 39 years of history behind it.
The COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 has placed the tourism industry in an extremely difficult situation. However, the staff at New Japan Tourist have been thinking hard and taking various kinds of action to overcome it.
While doing so, they began to think about specializing in travel for the elderly and people with disabilities, and decided to use the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Accessible Tourism Counselor Dispatch Project.
We asked representative director Mr. Yoshimitsu Kanai about the background, action, and future prospects.

We Want to Be More Involved in Travel for People with Disabilities

Before we started using the Counselor Dispatch Project, one of our staff was involved in group tours for people with intellectual disabilities. He conducted tours several times, and based on his experiences, we were discussing whether there was anything more we could do to help people with disabilities travel, and how it would be good if there were tours designed especially for them. On the actual trips, staff from the care facilities would be there too, so there wouldn't be much we could do directly. But when actually conducting the tours, I think our staff felt there ought to be more he could do to help. I myself also had the idea that there was a business opportunity there, because there aren't many companies that specialize in travel for people with disabilities.
Another one of our staff has a job related to nursing care, and he said there's a need for tourism for elderly people who require care. I'd been planning myself to start working on group tours for so-called elderly clubs, and I thought there would be some challenges in common. In the middle of all this, I heard about this Counselor Dispatch Project by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, so I applied for it. It was right when COVID-19 was becoming a pandemic, too, so it was also at a time when we were exploring business directions.

Winning the Support and Understanding of All Staff

Actually hearing the details from the counselor, I felt "This is it!" in the very first session. However, just me thinking so alone wouldn't make it viable as a business. I thought I'd need to win the support and understanding of all our staff, so I asked the counselor to hold training sessions.
We were all able to learn something, right down to specifics like the need for accessible tourism, basic knowledge about things like the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, the key points involved in actually planning and arranging tours for the elderly and people with disabilities, and how to conduct preliminary interview surveys.
Now, I feel that all our staff are more aware of and able to share in facing the challenges of accessible tourism.

I think even seasoned staff with many years' experience as tour conductors were able to get a clearer idea of what to change specifically for the elderly and people with disabilities. I was particularly impressed by a case the counselor showed me of a Hawaiian tour for people with disabilities. Seeing how happy the customers were really motivated me to want to do tours like that.

Planning Accessible Tours and Gaining Experience

The counselor gave us more specific advice and lots of tips on accommodation, sightseeing, and pricing suited to accessible tourism, so now we're making use of all this and preparing a variety of tour plans for the elderly and people with disabilities. Now we launched a web site in June 2021 and released some travel plans.

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For example, we have a long-stay trip of about five nights for the elderly. I hope this will also help ryokans (Japanese style inns) that are struggling in the pandemic.
We're also considering a "from-home-to-home" package tour for two to five people. It'll be for people with disabilities using a private hire service. This tour is based on the trip we'd planned about two years ago as a gift for parents turning 70. It'll suit the current climate of concerns over COVID-19 very well, and will also be perfect for the concept of accessible tourism. Of course, we'll go along, too, and conduct tours around the sightseeing spots. I'd like to accumulate as many of these sorts of achievements and experiences as possible.
I believe that from now on, not just the accessible tourism industry but businesses in general will need to cooperate and share information with each other in order to survive, rather than competing against each other individually. I hope all of us can work together to revitalize the whole of the tourism industry.

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