Yamauchi Yasuhiro, CB TOURS Co.,Ltd.
Kojima Toshinori, COOP TRAVEL Co., Ltd.

Let’s talk to the tour developer! -2

I thought there was a rivalry between these two developers from different companies. But actually, they “often exchange information.” A keyword for bus tours seems to be “peace.”
Words by Mori Yuka
Photographs by Ito Rumiko
Translation by Xene Inc.

“Eat” Hokkaido, walk its “history”

What are persons on the tours looking for?

Kojima “Hokkaido HATAKE Restaurant” organized by COOP TRAVEL Co., Ltd. is a tour plan where a van equipped with a kitchen is driven straight to the field and one can directly eat the farm vegetables cooked by a famous chef.
Although at first, the tour did not attract a lot of customers, but now it has become so popular that this year, six year later, 20 tours sold out in two weeks. 

“Hokkaido HATAKE Restaurant” is very popular among people who are interested in food and farming.

Yamauchi Our “Hokkaido Heritage” tour has been operating for many years. Another popular tour is the “JNR Shihorosen Taushubetsu River Bridge,” to the “phantom bridge” in Kamishihoro Town but everyone has to walk a long distance after getting off the bus. So this year, when we added tour with the theme of “walking”, where you can walk along an abandoned railroad track after visiting the Taushubetsu River Bridge the previous day, and many people who enjoy walking joined the tour. We learned that changing the approach of a tour, even if trip destination is the same, is important.

The weathered Taushubetsu River Bridge. As the bridge continues to degrade with age, opportunity to see it in its original form is limited. (Photo courtesy of CB TOURS Co., Ltd.)

A barrier-free bus tour for all to enjoy

What kind of bus tour do you want to arrange for the future?

Yamauchi I want to plan a bus tour that is conducted by the local people. Hands-on tours are also popular. Visitors feel a greater connection with the Ainu when they not only listen to the history of the Ainu but can carve Ainu patterns themselves.

Kojima We want to expand the “COOP Relaxation Tour” which has already been launched. The bus is equipped with a lift, so persons in wheelchairs and those who wish to walk at a slower pace can enjoy the tour. The tour is arranged at a more leisurely pace and includes staying at a barrier-free hotel. Customers in wheelchairs are assisted by “Trip Supporters” so their families can relax and enjoy the tour together.
I felt we should continue this after hearing one family who were traveling with their grandmother say with tears in their eyes, “We never thought we could travel with our grandmother.”

The "COOP Relaxation Tour" has drawn attention from other travel agencies as to how a bus tour should be run in an aging society. (Photo courtesy of COOP TRAVEL Co., Ltd.)

Yamauchi The tour is a model case for the future since demand by the senior generation is large. We would like to propose plans that are more specific to the local area. The requests and ideas of the towns are then materialized into a bus tour. If that works and other travel agencies also increase their bus tours, the local area will be activated.

Tourism is a happy business

What makes being in charge of a bus tour so attractive?

Kojima I am always happy to hear people say, “I’d love to go again” as they get off the bus. By directly listening to the customers and considering what they want from a bus tour, I can provide a happy time.

Yamauchi Tourism is a happy business. We can go to places that the customers want to visit and watching their response and happy faces while working. That’s attractive.

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