Tokyo, July 14, 2014 - Rakuten Inc. (4755:TOKYO) today announced plans for a major overhaul of the foreign language sites of its comprehensive travel site, “Rakuten Travel.”
The new foreign language sites feature a simple design, making them easier to navigate and understand. Until now, the platform for each foreign language site had been independent, but the standardization will ease development and form a foundation to support growth in the expanding inbound business.
The English site will be overhauled first, followed by the renewal of existing sites in Korean, Chinese (traditional and simplified characters) and other languages. This will enable Rakuten to deliver information about attractive hotels unique to Japan to more foreign tourists. Moreover, the new sites will be both tablet and smartphone compatible, allowing the same content to be shown on mobile devices as on PCs.
The number of visitors to Japan from overseas topped 10 million for the first time in 2013, prompted by the relaxing of visa requirements for visitors from China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, the growth and expansion of low cost carriers (LCCs), and the yen depreciation. Great expectations are held for further growth with the selection of Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The government of Japan has set itself the goal of attracting 20 million tourists per year by 2020. By then, a major boost to the number of visitors is anticipated, particularly from Southeast Asian countries with the growth in their home economies and the relaxing of visa requirements.
Rakuten Travel is also seeing increased demand from foreign tourists, and the results in April 2014 revealed 94.8% growth year-on-year. Areas off the beaten track that stray from the mainstream Golden Route* have also been skyrocketing in popularity, testifying the diversifying demands of visitors from overseas, with a dramatic increase of 92.1% in the number of foreign tourists in Gifu Prefecture (as of April 2014). Rakuten Travel currently has over 18,000 member hotels with web pages in foreign languages promoting not only cities, but also the appeal of rural areas.
Rakuten Travel plans to further expand its website centered on Southeast Asian languages to cater to the anticipated increase in the number of visitors from the region. Moving forward, Rakuten Travel will bolster the functions and information on its website to boost convenience and improve its services in an effort to attract more foreign tourists visiting Japan.
1*The Golden Route refers to a route often traveled by tourists in which they visit sightseeing spots in and around Tokyo, after which they travel to Kansai via Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Nagoya, etc., then fly home from Kansai International Airport. The route is also traveled in the opposite direction from Kansai to Kanto.