Following a year that challenged the global hospitality industry to rethink almost everything, Rakuten Travel Conference returned this spring with an optimistic message and a new online-only format.
Themed Walk Together: Strategies for Go To Travel, the event provided Rakuten Travel‘s accommodation providers with insights from industry experts on timely topics such as the Japanese government’s Go To Travel program and opportunities to network with peers — a place to discuss strategies for enhancing customer satisfaction today and imagine the tourism industry of tomorrow.
Rakuten Travel gains market share amid challenging year
“The pandemic has had a profound impact on the travel industry,” Yoshiyuki Takano, Managing Director of Rakuten’s Travel & Mobility Business, commented in his keynote presentation at the annual conference. “I am deeply moved by the efforts of accommodation providers to manage the situation and offer countermeasures. We will work even harder to link these efforts to attract customers.”
Those efforts appear to be having a positive impact on Rakuten’s business. Data suggests that Rakuten Travel managed to navigate the rough seas of 2020 far better than the travel industry as a whole (see table below). Rakuten Travel also reached a significant milestone in 2020 by earning a 20% market share in domestic bookings, double the 10% share it owned in 2015.
The power of the Rakuten Ecosystem
One of Rakuten’s most unique features is its expansive ecosystem of services, which are tied together through the Rakuten Points loyalty program. Points can be earned and redeemed across many of Rakuten’s 70+ services in Japan, which helps drive loyalty among Rakuten members, while encouraging them to try other Rakuten services.
“Despite the changes brought on by the pandemic, Rakuten’s businesses have continued to expand,” Takano explained before highlighting the growth of Rakuten’s core pillars of e-commerce, fintech and mobile, and the role of the Rakuten Ecosystem in Rakuten Travel’s success — cross-use. “89% of Rakuten Travel users are also using other Rakuten services.”
The Rakuten Travel Awards
One of the biggest highlights of every conference is the Rakuten Travel Awards, which are given to hotels, inns and other accommodation facilities that have earned consistent customer satisfaction and offered the highest standard of omotenashi service. The most prestigious prize is the Gold Rakuten Award.
Japanese-style inns (traditional ryokan and ryokan hotels) are evaluated using a unique set of criteria, with the very best in the category being recognized with the special Japanese Style Hotel Award. Only one inn from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures is selected for the award each year.
And the winners are…
Takashi Fukumoto, President and CEO of Umiiro-Yunoyado Shogetsu Hotel, which won the Gold Award and was named the top Japanese-style hotel in Tottori Prefecture, points to a strong support network for his hotel’s success. “This is our 10th consecutive year of receiving the Rakuten Travel Gold Award, but we couldn’t have done it without our incredible staff. The support from Rakuten Travel has also been tremendous, especially over this past, extremely challenging year.” Fukumoto commented.
Norihito Shimazaki, who manages the Yunoyado Wadoh Hotel in scenic Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, says the accolades are the result of years of hard work and dedication. “When we first joined a Rakuten Travel Conference 13 years ago, we set out to one day win a Rakuten Travel Award,” he explained. “This award represents the fruit of all the seeds we have planted over the years. We are tremendously grateful for the support.”
Tourism has been undeniably one of the sectors hit hardest by the global pandemic. However, despite the unprecedented challenges faced by all sides of the industry, Rakuten continues to encourage and support accommodation providers across Japan, while offering its vision for a brighter future.
For those keen to visit Japan from the comfort of home, Voyagin, a Rakuten Group service, has launched a series of live online experiences that offer would-be travelers the opportunity to enjoy Japanese culture online.