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Major Japanese Travel Agency JTB Embraces Digital Transformation

JTB is a major Japanese travel agency, which was founded as the Japan Tourist Bureau in 1912 with the aim of promoting Japanese economic growth by bringing foreign tourists to Japan. The company has grown to encompass a worldwide network of 502 offices in 39 countries and over 29,000 employees. In order to respond to the challenges posed by digitalization and the growth of the online travel sector, JTB has been engaged in major restructuring efforts for several years, and this process has become even more urgent given the current economic crisis facing the travel industry as a whole.

In November 2020, JTB announced a reorganization of its business structure into three business areas, namely “Tourism”, “Area Solution”, and “Business Solution”. JTB aims to increase the use of digital-based human-touch services in each of these areas.

In the area of “Tourism”, JTB aims to shift its sales channels from traditional brick-and-mortar retailing and call centres to smart devices, with assistance from sales staff where necessary. The “Area Solution” business segment will focus on providing assistance to local tourism operators by building a service platform on which they can create new products and solutions for their customers. “Business Solution” aims to provide support to companies and organizations by providing data analysis services and developing digital marketing strategies on the basis of this data.

One of the areas in which JTB would like to improve is to shift from a paper-based business style to a digital working environment. For instance, JTB aims to reduce the use of paper by moving away from paper contracts to electronic contracting. It is also actively moving away from fixed-price paper brochures, on which it still relies heavily, to dynamic pricing, which will enable the company to respond more flexibly to fluctuations in demand and the actual market situation.

In order to improve the customer experience through new technology, JTB is also aiming to implement a variety of digital solutions including personalized proposals based on shopping data and the improvement of local tourism products, with the aim of increasing customer loyalty. This is in response to global OTAs and technology companies such as Google extending their services to travel, and making efforts to attract repeat customers rather than one-off users.

To this effect, JTB has developed a tourism-oriented MaaS software to provide seamless services from search and booking to mobility experience, called “JTB MaaS API Gateway”. The software’s services include product search, booking and payment services, as well as an improved mobility experience including AI-based assignment of taxis, all of which are based on direct API connections between the JTB MaaS API Gateway and tourism operators’ apps.

JTB is also actively studying the potential of blockchain technology to enable a new business model by directly connecting suppliers to end users, instead of relying on the traditional commission-based business model for travel agencies.

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