The second Ideathon Tourism x Marketing Guest speakers: Prof. Tetsuo Shimizu Mr. Yu Aoki
We held the second Ideathon on Wednesday, June 20, inviting two guest speakers; Prof. Tetsuo Shimizu (Chair, Department of Tourism Science, Faculty of Urban Environmental Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University) and Mr. Yu Aoki (CEO of MATCHA Inc.).
Prof. Tetsuo Shimizu
Professor & Chair, Department of Tourism Science, Faculty of Urban Environmental Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University
Acquired Doctorate in Engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT). After serving as Associate Professor at School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo, he took a post of Professor at Graduate School of Urban Environmental Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University in 2011. Assumed the current post in 2018. He has also been serving as Director, Research Institute, Japan Travel and Tourism Association since 2017. His research areas are Traffic Science and Tourism Policy & Planning. He was awarded Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner's Award for his “research paper on empirical analysis utilizing tourism statistics” in 2010. He serves as member for many professional commissions.
Mr. Yu Aoki
CEO of MATCHA Inc.
Born in Tokyo in 1989. Graduated from School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University. CEO and President of MATCHA Inc. Regional producer for “Cool Japan Strategy” of the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. He traveled around the world when he was student and was involved in producing activities at 2012 Doha International Book Fair. After working for a digital agency augment5 inc., started his own business, MATCHA, a web media for foreigners visiting Japan in February 2014. Collaborating with various companies, prefectures and municipalities, MATCHA delivers information overseas in 10 languages with accesses from more than 200 countries.
Key Speech by Prof. Shimizu
Big Data Era
Although it’s the era of Big Data, there is a serious lack of human resources in tourism industry who make full use of it. For company owners and chiefs of local administrations, there is little need to analyze such data by themselves and it would be enough for them to make judgment based on results of analyses conducted by their subordinates. For this, they, at least, are required to have minimum knowledge to understand the data.
Data in tourism industry is flooding. KPI tends to be misused and sometimes it seems that setting KPI itself is regarded as goal, and such confusion of means and objects happens quite often. We need to speed up in fostering specialists who can analyze Big Data and draw up tourism policy strategy based on the analysis results.
Prof. Shimizu does not necessarily agree with the thought of “Data is absolute. Do not rely on experiences or gut feeling”. He pointed out that sometimes “experiences” and “gut feelings” could play a big role in making good use of Big Data.
Viewpoint of Monetizing
People come up with various business ideas at the session about regional development through tourism, however, they often lack in viewpoint of how many people would pay how much for the idea. In other words, they lack in viewpoint of possibility of monetizing the idea. As ideas can turn to sustainable business only when they can be monetized, it is important to consider the viewpoint of monetizing when making the concept of business.
Efforts by Prof. Shimizu
He presented four projects he is now working on as tips for Ideathon; making Tokyo waterfront more attractive, Mt. Fuji mountain railway project, revenue management for parking lot around Mt. Takao area, and activation of Sado Island by using natural resources.
Key Speech by Mr. Aoki
MATCHA is a company founded by Mr. Aoki in 2013. It is disseminating information for foreign tourists visiting Japan and providing businesses and local municipalities with support in overseas marketing. Among the investors in MATCHA Inc. are Hoshino Resorts Inc. and Snow Peak Inc.
The company sees its mission as “Bringing Japan's Valuable Culture Forward” and holds the vision of “Becoming Japan's Largest Tourist Based Platform.” It is offering high-quality information on the Internet so that foreign people would feel like coming to Japan.
MATCHA is available in 10 languages. Chinese version is written both in simplified and traditional characters. The version of “Yasashii Nihongo” (Easy Japanese) is a fun for beginners of Japanese languages. It has hiragana phonetics along kanji (Chinese characters).
MATCHA is accessed some 2.4 million times annually, which means 8 to 10% of foreign tourists visiting Japan is using the platform. Among countries, Taiwanese people visit the website most often, especially women in their 20s and 30s.
MATCHA values direct gathering of information on the spot. There are actually many shops that do not wish to or are not able to welcome foreign tourists, and MATCHA will be considerate enough not to post information on the shops without their consent. The website covers not only touristic points and shops but also how to use Suica card and how to pour beer in Japanese way. Things which are seen as a matter of course for Japanese people can sometimes be fresh information and good help for foreign tourists.
Why did he start the business?
When he was a university student, a professor said, “Japanese culture is popular all over the world, but Japanese people don’t take advantage of it to run a business”. As he felt there would be a chance, he set out for an around-the-world trip only one month after he heard the professor’s opinion. His trip last for 7 months.
In London, he saw British people buying tasteless sushi. At a comic event with some 200,000 comic fans in Lucca, Italy, he saw only few booths opened by Japanese companies and thought Japanese companies were losing business chances. These experiences encouraged him to start business of disseminating charms of Japan.
The important is to share information and feeling.
After graduation, he worked for a digital agency augment5 inc. and then set up his own company. Since then, things were not always good and he sometimes needed to go through hardship.
From his experience of having 90% of his company’s editor quittings, he felt strongly that it was so important to share vision and mission with the company members. Now, he had set 3 principles; “Let’s challenge,” “Let’s respect all,” and “User is the first priority (Users First),” and shares these within his company.
Mr. Aoki also said he thinks “it is important to talk to as many people as possible when he finds something he wants to do”. He emphasized the importance of sharing what he thinks not only within his company but also with people outside the company. His words did have convincing power as he actually carries out his words.
Ideathon was held based on key speeches of the two guest speakers. According to the themes proposed by Prof. Shimizu and Mr. Aoki, the participants divided in teams had discussion to present their ideas, which summarized below:
Theme from Prof. Shimizu
“What would you like to try at Tokyo’s waterfront? Crazy ideas are welcomed.”
Ideas from participants.
Idea 1: “Experience of running on the water”
You could run on the water mixed with a certain amount of starch if you run at high speed while you would sink if you don’t run fast enough. How about setting up a special venue where participants can try to run for some 50 meters and gaining profits by selling the participation ticket and related goods?
Idea 2: Neo-futuristic high-end club cruise
Tokyo has a charm of neo-futuristic feeling. While talking about night life, Tokyo is less attractive than the cities in other countries. The idea is to operate high-end club cruise people can board without reservation.
Idea 3: Operating water-bus for passengers arriving by LCC night flights
Many of LCC flights arriving at Haneda Airport are arriving late at night, when there is no train services. How about operating water buses bound for downtown Tokyo? In Australia, water buses are a part of daily traffic infrastructure. The water bus route goes from Haneda to the center of Tokyo shows its passengers some ugly scenery of Tokyo, however, it would be something for tourists to see such part of Tokyo.
Theme from Mr. Aoki
“If you are to present new project at MATCHA, what idea can you offer?”
Ideas from participants
Idea 1: “Food & Entertainment” project to promote sports watching
Although many Japanese go abroad to watch Major League baseball games, foreign tourists do not come to Japan for the purpose of watching Japanese sports games. How about promoting sports watching by combining it with barbecue or other eating experiences?
Idea 2: Service to suggest tour plans
Backpackers usually fix only departure and returning time for the day and enjoy walking around freely. Service to suggest tour plans by inputting only departure and returning times would be useful for foreign tourists.
Idea 3: Function to get connected with other viewers accessing the website at the same time
How about offering service to connect tourists who are by chance viewing the same information on website at the same time? It could give them opportunity to meet and go sightseeing together, and would result in greater satisfaction with Japanese tourism.
Idea 4: Service to connect with Japanese who want to be tour guide
As there must be many Japanese who want to improve their language skill by being a guide for foreigners, it would serve a dual purpose if there’s a service to connect volunteer guides and tourists.
Idea 5: Navigation system using AR technology
A system that can navigate with 3D sight, not conventional map service, could help foreign tourists to transfer of trains without problems.
Idea 6: Disseminating information on Japanese culture practiced by foreigners living in Japan
MATCHA could have contents showing, not pure Japanese culture but “Japanese culture” rooted among foreign residents in Japan, or changed and evolved “Japanese culture.”
A lot of ideas came up though in a limited time. The next Ideathon will explore the possibility of new tourism using IoT. We invite Mr. Yoshiki Iwamoto , CEO of 81plus Inc. as a guest speaker, talking about “Tourism x IoT.”