What is the current situation of bus tours?
Kojima In most case, 80% of the customers are women, and depending on the tour, even 90%.
Yamauchi Most bus tour guests are older than 60 years. Although they can still drive, many find it bothersome. As the age of the population increases, so does the demand.
Kojima For a while, there was a price war, but the price has stabilized as the importance of safety has increased. Now we feel the customers choose a tour according to the merits or plan specifically of a Bus tour.
Yamauchi For a “Sake-tasting” tour to a sake or beer brewery, a bus tour is ideal. We try to make the bus tour appealing by arranging to visit facilities which are open to groups, and so on.
What kind of Bus tour is popular these days?
Kojima One-day trips where one can enjoy food from Hokkaido are quite popular throughout the year.
Yamauchi Recently the top-selling tour is the one day trip where the town mayor is the tour guide. This all started when the mayor was at a meeting planning a Tsukigata town tour. “Mayor, would you like to join the trip?” “Sure.” “Could you become a tour bus guide?” “OK!” That’s how the story began. This tour is so popular that it’s spreading to the other towns too.
The town mayor knows the good and bad things about a town. Since many of the tour guests enjoy learning, this tour meets that demand as well. We also receive inquiries from other towns about how they can make a similar tour.
Kojima I also agree that many guests are eager to learn. It's not easy for the conductor to satisfy all their curiosity, but when an expert grabs the microphone, their eyes start to shine.
How do you plan a tour and what are some of the challenges?
Kojima A basic principle is that the person in charge should handle tour development from beginning to the end. Their task includes planning, adjustment of the trip destination, preparing advertisements and receiving orders. On the day of the trip, they become the tour conductor and when they come back, take care of the numbers.
When making a plan, I try to identify the purpose of the tour. The age-bracket was change considerably depending on if a certain tourist spot is the main attraction or a side attraction.
Yamauchi Me too. I also try to determine the main attraction and the side attraction. If the guests step on and off one more time, they may get tired. This point is also worth considering.
Kojima It’s difficult when a tour doesn’t sell well. Although we may think it’s a good tour plan, sometimes it doesn’t sell once we start advertising. In that case, I have to adjust my thinking and try to use the experience when making the next plan.
Yamauchi If I only receive 2 or 3 reservations for the week after advertising the tour, I say ”I messed up”. In contrast, when I hear the guests say “I’m glad I came”, I feel so happy.
* To be continued (the second half to be released Sept. 6)