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Game on as LINE enters travel: Key lessons from WIT Japan & North Asia

Game on as LINE enters travel: Key lessons from WIT Japan & North Asia
Game on as LINE enters journey: Key lessons from WIT Japan & North Asia
by Yeoh Siew Hoon,
in Distribution,
Begin Ups

There we have been at WiT Japan & North Asia talking of the disruption happening in journey and the day after we wrap up our two-day occasion comes the information that LINE, Japan’s fundamental messaging app, is moving into journey.

The information launch stated that LINE Journey “would be a comprehensive travel service enabling users to search for, compare, and book domestic and overseas trips”, providing first a one-stop service to seek for one of the best offers from greater than 250 widespread journey websites together with JTB. Options to be launched in phases embrace lodging reservations, adopted by flights and home/worldwide package deal excursions later this yr.

LINE launched “LINE Shopping” final yr and journey is the newest vertical to fall beneath this umbrella. It additionally has LINE Delima for meals supply. LINE has set a FY2019 goal of Y100b gross transaction quantity for LINE Journey, just like its goal for LINE Purchasing.

Within the final yr, there’s been an enormous shift to messaging and messaging apps now account for six of the world’s prime 10 apps. On the Fb Lodge Summit Asia Pacific held in Singapore earlier this month, Nikhilesh Ponde, head of worldwide journey technique for Fb, stated there have been now 8b messages a month between individuals and companies, up from 2b simply 12 months in the past. And that 43% favor cellular messaging to work together with corporations.

LINE coming into journey was only a query of when, not if, and business gamers in South Korea are additionally ready for the day when Kakao may also enter journey. Between LINE, WeChat and Kakao, there are stated to be 1.3b lively customers. Whatsapp is piloting funds in India, stated Ponde, when he spoke of the rising development of “conversational commerce” happening in markets like Thailand with small companies migrating to messaging platforms.

Past messaging turning into the brand new distribution, listed here are the important thing takeaways from WIT Japan & North Asia.

Bobby Healy, CarTrawler, asking Akemi Tsunagawa, Bespoke and Zhu Lei, iGOLA, about their use of chatbot and AI of their companies.

  1. Two forces converge – huge will get greater however it’s by no means been cheaper to construct a startup

Whereas buyers spoke of the development of the consolidation of funding and cash chasing the large, there’s by no means been a greater and cheaper time to do a startup, tech-wise.

Bobby Healy, CTO, CarTrawler stated machine studying and pure language processing applied sciences have been being bought off-the-shelf. “Before it may have cost $7m to do a machine learning startup, now it costs nothing. It’s the perfect point of time with startups and investments pouring into the space.”

His recommendation was to focus on B2B companies and in chatbots and machine studying. Citing the instance of Arthur, CarTrawler’s chatbot, he stated Arthur now handles 40% of the corporate’s 45m emails a yr. He has decreased common e mail dealing with time from 210 to 114 seconds, which suggests eradicating one third of prices. And Arthur is all the time rated No 1 agent by clients.

“Any fool can build Arthur, we built it in three months. Two years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” he stated.

  1. Movies and tales are the brand new huge factor

The mantra “video is the new text”, uttered by Ram Badrinathan, previously of Phocuswright at a WiT virtually a decade in the past, is lastly coming true. CISCO predicts that video will account for 78% of all cellular knowledge visitors by 2021 however we don’t have to attend until then to see how our personal social feeds are reflecting that.

Instagram TV’s been launched and Instagram Tales, through which content material disappears after 24 hours, are taking up our feeds. Omi Suzuki, head of e-commerce and journey vertical for Fb Japan, stated 8m movies are processed on a regular basis on Instagram. This Fb-owned platform is clearly having fun with a growth outdoors the US – of its 500m every day actives, 80% are past the US – and it’s attracting travellers. In response to Suzuki, 54% of travellers say they’ve used Instagram prior to now month they usually view movies 2.2 occasions greater than different US Instagramers, watch movies of their entirety 2x extra, have 1.6x extra periods and spend 1.3x the time per week on Instagram.

The problem with movies is in case you’re a website targeted on transaction, they will decelerate your obtain speeds – and nowadays, in case your website takes greater than 2 seconds to load, you lose that consumer.

So how do you stability inspiration with transaction?

  1. For Japan, inbound’s the gold; for South Korea, outbound’s the place it’s at

It’s fascinating to distinction the 2 markets. Japan’s outbound is stagnating whereas its inbound is booming, near 29m guests final yr. That inbound rush is benefitting international manufacturers like Expedia and TripAdvisor that are all having fun with double-digit progress in Japan.

Expedia Group’s Michael Dykes cited the figures of 30-50% when talking concerning the progress the OTA was having fun with in Japan and apparently, its progress shouldn’t be solely in inbound the place it’s naturally stronger however in outbound as nicely as home.

Against this, Japanese journey manufacturers such as Recruit, JTB and Rakuten are recording lesser progress due to their lack of brand name consciousness in offshore markets as nicely as their already excessive penetration of their house markets. The three manufacturers are clearly intent on increasing outdoors Japan.

From left, Kenichiro Miyamoto, Recruit Way of life, Ken Mishima, JTB and Yoshiyuki Takano, Rakuten – on the lookout for progress in a saturated market and preventing for a slice of the inbound pie

Travelport’s survey on “Simplifying Japan’s Outbound Trends” highlighted that amid a stagnating development, it was feminine and the +55 travellers who have been extra more likely to take shorthaul journeys and spend extra, a reality confirmed by airways such as Peach which have made feminine travellers the cornerstone of their technique.

Airways are definitely benefitting from the inbound rush – Japan Airways’ Takafumi Maruyama stated the airline had seen a 250% improve within the sale of its Air Cross. Jetstar Japan, which could have 28 plane by 2019 and has flown 25m pax within the six years of its operations, has launched self-service kiosks and is seeing encouraging adoption, stated Kensaku Nagayama, head of selling, Jetstar Group. On its home community, Nagayama stated virtually 80% of gross sales was coming direct by means of its digital channels.

South Korea’s outbound in the meantime grew by 22% to prime virtually 25 million final yr (half of its inhabitants) with virtually a 3rd (7.1m) travelling to Japan, a 40% improve. Fuelled by low value airline exercise, it’s a quantity that’s set to develop additional with six extra low value airways pending approval.

Ryan Lee, Dunamu (left) and Masahiro Yamashita, KAYAK on alternatives within the South Korean market

This has created new alternatives for meta-searches like KAYAK whose head of Northeast Asia, Masahiro Yamashita, stated on this market with a 92% smartphone penetration, even among the many aged, shoppers have been going digital and journey manufacturers needed to sustain.

In a flight-led market such as this, Ryan Lee, chief funding officer of Dunamu Inc, a South Korea-based $100m fund targeted on blockchain startups stated flight OTAs had the benefit since they caught clients on the prime of the funnel and had the window and time to promote them different journey merchandise.

four. It’s nonetheless new however blockchain might counter fraud and construct belief and the way about digital people who can debate?

Given the power of the Korean outbound market, Dunamu’s Lee additionally stated that if he have been doing a startup, he’d construct it round excursions & actions focused on the Korean traveller and blockchain had the potential to deal with this fragmented market, the place 80% of bookings stay offline in APAC.

“In situations where suppliers are paying a lot to the middlemen and where there’s an issue of trust because of the fragmented supply, blockchain could work to address these two issues,” stated the South Korean e-commerce skilled, who used to work at Tmon Journey.

Acknowledging the scepticism round blockchain presently, Lee stated, “It’s hard to see it now just as we couldn’t see the future of the Internet 20 years ago but we are clearly invested in it.” His fund has already deployed $19m into blockchain startups in South Korea as nicely as outdoors the nation.

In his presentation, Masaya Higuchi of IBM Japan talked about how crypto anchors and blockchain might unite towards counterfeiters and battle fraud in meals and drugs provide. IBM and Walmart are constructing a totally clear meals system which might have the ability to pinpoint the supply of produce. Additionally it is introducing blockchain to confirm the jewelry provide chain, tracing it to its actual origin, from producer to retail.

Within the space of AI, It’s partnering with MIT on a 10-year, $240m funding to create the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. And it’s making progress in its strikes to create the “digital human” – for instance, Sophie, the robotic created for Air New Zealand and a “digital debator” who can truly inject humour into her arguments.

Kotaro Chiba’s imaginative and prescient of Tokyo, drone metropolis of the longer term

Kotaro Chiba: Needs Japan to take the lead in drone know-how

One new tech that Kotaro Chiba has ambitions in is drone know-how and his ambition is to see Japan take the lead on this sector. He is aware of the chances are stacked towards Japan in fact.

On the occasion, he flew a drone, priced at US$100, that was made in China by an organization that already controls 70% of the drone market. However Chiba, founding father of the $16m Drone Fund, isn’t deterred. He’s invested in 19 drone startups as properly as an array of journey startups together with RELUX and Trippiece.

He imagines drone tourism the place travellers can stream stay video pictures to family and friends again residence and drone mobility the place hover bikes and hover taxis transfer us round within the area between land and sky. “That’s the new Internet,” he stated.

  1. Personal lodging – might laws spoil the celebration?

The brand new laws, which got here into impact round “minpaku” lodging, might have created brief time period ache for corporations within the house sharing area with Airbnb hit probably the most however the common consensus appears to be that it’s good for the longterm.

Shinichi Tatebayashi, CEO and co-founder of SQUEEZE, which offers tech options to residence house owners, stated about 30% of his enterprise was affected however he stays bullish concerning the future. For him, the fascinating query to ask is, what is going to occur to the 8m empty houses in Japan? Will these houses be put onto the personal lodging market to ease the availability crunch given the robust inbound market and the federal government’s push to hit 40m guests by 2020?

Nevertheless Takaya Shinozuka, CEO & co-founder of RELUX, stated he was involved laws could also be too robust and could possibly be a setback for the sector. One purpose he says that the restaurant scene in Japan is so numerous and fascinating is that it has minimal laws.

The brand new laws are at present complicated and on prime of the nationwide insurance policies, native governments even have the correct to introduce their very own guidelines – for instance, in Kyoto, in residential areas, solely 60 days throughout January and February are allowed and in Sapporo metropolis, solely weekend is allowed in residential areas.

The opposite fascinating issue is that whereas 15% of overseas travellers use “minpaku”, solely zero.three% of Japanese travellers use them and when panelists have been requested to foretell the home share in 5 years’ time, most pegged it at beneath 10%. Clearly there’s the gold to be mined with the Japanese home market pegged at 641m travellers again in 2016 (Japan Tourism Company). What’s wanted is publicity and familiarity, stated the gamers on this sector, with Aya Aso, CEO of Savvy Collective, observing, “It’s still a new thing for Japanese to stay in other people’s homes.”

Nevertheless, Tom Nagata, managing officer for home based business, Airbnb stated the corporate was seeing an uptake amongst Japanese of their 20s.

  1. In defending disappearing Japan, it might want to look outwards

One widespread theme was additionally the disappearance of previous Japan. Tabica, a startup which pitched at our competitors, stated 14,375 villages have been in peril of disappearing by 2050 and founder Tessei Hosokawa, a monk, needed to discover a method to assist protect vanishing life and these villages. Its enterprise matches native villagers who create experiences round their way of life, crafts and expertise. “Old people full of skills, passions and talents are living alone and forgotten in villages around Japan,” stated his pitch.

Based in 2015, it now has four,.200 hosts, 27,000 clients and employs greater than 20 full-time employees. It’s clearly a hard-to-scale mannequin which was why it didn’t make it into the semi-finals however one factor I’ve learnt about Japan is that it’s full of people like Hosokawa who’re enthusiastic about delivering a greater Japanese expertise to overseas travellers, as properly as preserving native heritage and traditions.

Katsumi Sakakura (left) and Yu Aoki keen about sharing their Japan with travellers.

Yu Aoki, co-founder of Japan journey journal Matcha, who pitched his startup in 2014, has managed to develop his content material enterprise to succeed in two million customers and now covers 10 languages. Yuki Naruse of On My Journey works and lives on a bus, providing multilingual audio guides to foreigners. And it’s not solely native Japanese who’re keen about sharing their Japan. A New Zealander who’s lived in Japan for 20 years, Greg Lane of Tokyo Cheapo targets travellers who will not be solely budget-conscious however scared of venturing out of their consolation zone.

And there are some issues Lane won’t write about and promote, like animal cafes. “Tourists don’t know they are part of the problem because without them, there wouldn’t be these cafes,” he stated as he informed me of owls being imported from South-east Asia.

Katsumi Sakakura, a performer who opened our occasion final yr and closed it this yr, is eager to point out foreigners his concept of “Cool Japan” by means of his firm Orientarhythm, and speaks of a village the place you possibly can meet the final Samurai and the way he needs to create experiences round such disappearing traditions.

When Adam Brownstein, managing director, North Asia for, who moved to Tokyo from Singapore, was requested what was the most important distinction between the 2 nations, he stated, “Singapore looks outwards, Japan looks inwards.”

When requested which facet of the Japanese surroundings wanted to be modified to favour startups, Masashi Takahashi, CEO and co-founder of Japanese excursions & actions website, Voyagin, stated, “A global mindset among investors. It is hard to raise funds here if you have a global idea.”

Masako Wakamiya: “Technology gave me wings.”

Because the first WIT Japan in 2012, we’ve seen a rising curiosity amongst Japanese corporations in wanting outwards. Tomohisa Yamano, founder & CEO of Asoview, spent seven days studying English properly sufficient to participate in his panel to inform us about his startup, which has raised US$14m, and focuses on promoting Japanese excursions & actions to locals and guests.

And let’s not overlook 83-year-old Masako Wakamiya, the world’s oldest iOS developer who after she give up banking, learnt to code, developed an app for seniors, received invited to Apple’s Worldwide Builders Convention, met Tim Prepare dinner and the remaining is historical past. “Technology gave me wings,” she stated. She now spends her time travelling – her dream locations for subsequent yr are Estonia and Latvia – and talking at conferences and galvanizing audiences together with her spark, smarts and smiles.

So message of the day – look outwards or wither inside and fly like Masako.

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