Internet Travel Connections
A Conversation with JNTO's PR Manager, Marian Goldberg
As a follow-up to Ron Maders interview with Internet guru Michael Shapiro in the November/ December 2000 issue of Transitions Abroad, we asked Marian Goldberg for her perspective on the present state of Internet travel. Marian is the North American public relations manager for the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) and former special interest travel editor for Transitions Abroad. She has also worked as managing editor at the electronic travel information company, Personal Travel Technologies, and as a producer at the Travel Channel.
Transitions Abroad: How would you describe the changes affecting travelers as a result of the Internet?
Marian Goldberg: First of all, the number-one interest of online consumers is travel. In 1999, more than $15 billion in airline ticket revenue was generated from online sales and more than $20 billion in revenue is expected this year. The projection is that by 2003 online leisure travel sales alone will reach $30 billion, and another $30 billion will come from online business sales. In short, online ticket buying is a huge and growing business. By age groups, the highest growth rate of web usage is among seniors, second only to college students.
Adding to the growth of the Internet for travel bookings is the fact that the leisure travel industry itself is projected to grow by 29 percent over the next three years. (Nevertheless, the percentage of online bookings is still not expected to exceed 10 percent by 2003.)
TA: Michael Shapiro didnt talk about tourist office web sites in his interview. As a representative of a major tourist office, how do you view the usefulness of these sites?
Goldberg: If you have a particular destination in mind, the first place to start is always the tourist office site. Tourist offices are either nonprofit organizations or public-private partnerships, so you are getting the most unbiased information available. Most tourist offices now have both a head office site and a locally-based site. I am most familiar with our site, but you can apply what I am saying to other tourist offices.
Our Tokyo Headquarters site www.jnto.go.jp has much more information than our North American site www.japantravelinfo.com, but the North American site is much more user friendly. One particularly helpful service of our head office site is to provide information on a wide range of accommodations. Through our head office site you can find information on welcome inns and the Japanese inn group, both of which offer comfortable lodging even in Tokyo for around $70 per night. You can also find information on upscale Japanese inns or ryokan and even temple lodging called shukubo (although this is limited).
The welcome inns can be booked online, and they will fax you a confirmation.
Our North American site has information on both Japanese ground operators offering city and regional tours as well as U.S.- and Canadian-based tour companies. As a savvy traveler, you should note that many U.S.-based operators offer many of the same tours, but they add on their own fees. So, if you are going to book a city tour of Tokyo, for example, its best to book it on the Internet or when you get to Japan. The beauty of JNTOs North American site is that it links not only to our head office site but to the sites of the tour operators, both in the U.S. and in Japan. Many for-profit sites, such as www.Iexplore.com, do not link to the tour companies site because they want to control your booking and thus the commission.
JNTOs other links include the Tokyo food page (with information on sake tastings, cooking classes, supermarket tours, and restaurant reviews), Japanese English-language newspapers and city event guides, as well as to sites for local tourist offices and museum.
TA: Apart from yours of course, which are the most helpful tourist office web sites?
Goldberg: I havent yet looked at all of them, but I will provide my top 10 list, along with my criteria, for a future issue of Transitions Abroad.