Japan’s Lifull TraveRing connects travelers and locals, looking to create cycle of hospitality



See the original story in Japanese.

According to the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), the number of foreign visitors to Japan hit a record high of 13.4 million in 2014. The fact is that the opportunity to see more foreign visitors not only in Tokyo but also in rural travel destinations in Japan has increased.

Tokyo-based Lifull TraveRing recently launched a mobile app under the same name, looking to help these foreign visitors better connect with locals. The app is available for iOS on AppStore in more than 130 countries worldwide.

Benefit to both sides

There have been several services connecting travelers and locals in the former’s destination with each others since before, but what’s unique about the Lifull TraveRing app is that it allows users to participate both as a traveler and as a local. Using the app, one can communicate with locals at destinations during the trip while communicating with travelers in one’s hometown.

Lifull TraveRing CEO Yuko Akiyama explained:

We want travelers to enjoy communicating with locals in a way that they haven’t experienced in the past trips. On the other side, we want locals to feel happy by providing visitors hospitality in daily lives regardless of having no special skill or knowhow.

She told us that they have been receiving sign-ups from both travelers and locals almost at the same ratio. When it comes to this kind of apps connecting travels and locals in travel destinations, many of us are likely to think these are intended for overseas trips or foreign visitors. But the fact is that there are an increasing number of Japanese locals using the app who want to offer travel tips about where they live, especially in Tokyo and Kyoto where the company held app release parties.


Keeping in touch even after travel

We were told that the Lifull TraveRing have been focused on how to give users intuitiveness and a sense of security in the app development process. As a result of their effort to simplify the interface, users can choose a hobby in their profile section simply by tapping on the screen as well as express their gratitude to other users for meaningful communication by sending a ‘Thank U!’ sticker. The number of received ‘Thank U!’ stickers will be displayed in a user’s profile section, so it will work as an indicator for his or her trustworthiness.

Furthermore, a user has to start with Facebook authentication but can’t create an account without a certain number of Facebook friends so that it gives users a sense of security in meeting up with new people on the platform. To assure complete security, the company has also provided users with functions to block and report spam or abuse in the app, just in case.

Akiyama elaborated:

With a mission aiming to connect people in the world with each others through travels, our app allows users to enjoy communicating with locals at your destination, not only during the visit but also after it. So while you can speak with locals during your trip, you can provide them  hospitality when they visit your hometown. We aim to create a type of cycle in this way.

Finding the goal of life

Lifull TraveRing CEO Yuko Akiyama
Lifull TraveRing CEO Yuko Akiyama

Lifull TraveRing is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Next (TSE:2120), the company behind Japan’s largest property search portal Home’s. Lifull TraveRing’s Akiyama attended an overseas training program at the company as the first case from their female employees, and this experience greatly encouraged her to develop the app.

She visited local companies, universities and governmental offices in Finland during the program, where she saw that such a tiny country with just 5.5 million people has gotten over the economic crisis and various startups keep developing new services for the global market.

Akiyama added:

I was moved through interactions with locals in Finland, and I could find the goal of my life thanks to them. We want to help more travelers and more locals connect with each others, aiming to give them wonderful experiences through travels which may change their outlook on life. In order to realize this goal, I want to take great care in developing the service.

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Translated by Kenji Hayakawa via Conyac crowdsourced translation service
Edited by Masaru Ikeda
Proofread by “Tex” Pomeroy