The Fifth Ideathon with Guest Speaker Ms. Fumiko Kato, President & CEO of WAmazing, Inc.
The Fifth Ideathon, held Wednesday, October 17, welcomed guest speaker Ms. Fumiko Kato, President & CEO of WAmazing, Inc.
Ms. Kato joined Recruit in 1998. After working on new business developments, including the Jalan.net startup, she helped establish the Majibu section at the Jalan Research Center. In July 2016, she founded WAmazing, which makes the WAmazing service and smartphone app for foreign travelers in Japan. Today, the service is available in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
The Yukimaji! 19 project she worked on with Recruit
Ms. Kato has worked to stimulate rural communities through tourism since her time with Recruit. While with Recruit, she planned the Yukimaji! 19 project whose goal was to stimulate ski areas. The project offered free lift tickets to users 19 years old, she said, to encourage them to experience skiing and snowboarding at an early age. This promotional campaign had a major impact, introducing numerous many young people to the attractions of skiing and snowboarding. In one survey, 90% of respondents said they “definitely” wanted to go skiing or snowboarding again the next season. The campaign also appears to have had ripple effects on the use of lodging facilities and stores in and around ski areas.
The campaign generated significant satisfaction among both operators and young consumers. The number of participating ski areas continues to grow from year to year. In addition, as word of its success spread to other industries, the project led to the Majibu platform, which provides various free experiences, including free tickets to J League soccer matches, golf, and fishing. While Majibu, including Yukimaji! 19, is a Recruit business, it is currently managed by WAmazing under contract and Ms. Kato continues to operate it.
After leaving Recruit, Ms. Kato focused on Japan's inbound tourism market. She founded WAmazing to provide a service seeking to match foreign travelers vising Japan on their own to the attractions to be found in every nook and cranny of the nation. To encourage as many travelers as possible to use WAmazing, she hit on the idea of providing foreign visitors to Japan with free 500 MB SIM cards. Just as she had hoped, numerous foreign visitors to Japan, attracted by the free SIM cards, downloaded the app. She says users in Hong Kong and Taiwan alone accounted for more than 200,000 downloads.
Next target: The vast China market
The three countries of China, South Korea, and Taiwan currently account for 75% of all visitors to Japan. Numbers of visitors from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, countries relatively close to Japan and undergoing remarkable economic growth, are expected to increase significantly. Ms. Kato sees considerable room for growth in travelers from China, in light of its population. Poised to launch full-fledged efforts to target Chinese travelers, WAmazing recently launched an application for mainland China.
In her speech, Ms. Kato touched on various tips, including the link between her business and relaxation of visa requirements and trends in Chinese sentiment about travel to Japan. The discussion session following the speech covered SIM cards and telecommunications policies in Japan.
Both the Yukimaji! 19 and WAmazing projects in which Ms. Kato has been involved are campaigns that provide consumers with something for free. Detailed hypotheses and evidence underlie these campaigns. Hearing Ms. Kato describe these in detail in this Key Speech proved a very valuable learning experience.
The program's next guest will be Ken Isono, Managing Director of Shizen Energy.