Relux: A satisfaction-guaranteed online marketplace for Japanese inns

Relux: A satisfaction-guaranteed online marketplace for Japanese inns

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Many Japanese traditional-style inns, or ‘ryokan’, are known for their fine hospitality. And with the goal of helping you find the best ones, Relux, a high-class ryokan discovery service launched in beta back in February. It’s an initiative from Tokyo-based startup Loco Partners, who have so far secured 60 million yen (about $615,000) in funding from CyberAgent Ventures and Recruit Incubation Partners.

There are existing websites that allows users to find and reserve different accomodations such as Jyaran or Rakuten Travel. And there are others that are geared more towards high-class hotels like Ikkyu. So what makes Relux different?

Relux, whose name is a portmanteau of ‘relax’ and ‘luxury’, differentiates itself in three major ways:

  1. First, it is strictly a members-only service, with users in their 30s to 40s, many being doctors, lawyers, and top executives. Users apply for the membership using their Facebook credentials, when the site seems to extract information such as your college and career experiences from Facebook. The membership acceptance rate is somewhere around 20%.
  2. Another differentiator is that Relux guarantees the best rate for all offers they make on the site (in comparison to competitors).
  3. Relux also claims satisfation guaranteed (i.e. money back for dissatisfied customers) and they say they are the first in the travel industry to have such a policy.

I had a chance to talk to the founder of Relux, Takaya Shinozuka, who elaborated on how the system works.

Our staff negotiates with ryokan to create exclusive travel plans for Relux. The average rate per person per night is 40,000 yen including dinner and breakfast. Our plans start from a minimum of 30,000 yen to 100,000 yen at the high end. What distiguishes Relux from other luxury travel discovery sites is that only we provide ‘high-satisfaction’ ryokan instead of just high-class ryokan.

The review of hotels takes into account recommendations by executives who use such accomodations more than 100 times a year, as well as thorough research of online and offline reviews, and actual usage or a visit by a Relux representative.

Only two months after its launch, the site is focused on gaining more members and increasing the number of ryokan available on the site. Relux hopes to introduce around 200 ryokans per year. Shinozuka adds:

It is amazing how many wonderful ryokans there are not just in Tokyo but all over Japan. It is our mission to spread the word about such culture first to the Japanese people but hopefully to the world in the near future. To that end, we will definitely release an English version of Relux at some point.