Welcome Inns Reservation Center: Affordable Lodging for Foreign Visitors [2007/08/01]
Welcome Inns Reservation Center
The nationally run Visit Japan Campaign has announced its aim to draw 10 million visitors to Japan per year by 2010. However, in recent decades, one key stumbling block to tourism in this country has been the prohibitive cost of lodging. To address this issue, in 1991, the International Tourism Center of Japan created the Welcome Inns Reservation service, which has grown as an increasingly popular route for prospective visitors to obtain reasonable lodging.
The Welcome Inns Reservation Center, which acts as a go-between, for prospective overseas guests and around 300 small to mid-sized lodging
facilities, began accepting internet reservations from overseas in 2002. Prices average 4,800 yen per night (without meals), and facilities include traditional ryokan Japanese-style inns, business hotels, youth hostels and no-frills inns.
Japan hosts many sightseers from South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong, most of whom come in tour groups, and thus rarely use this reservation service. As a result, more than 90% of those who use the Welcome Inn service come from Europe or North America, regions with very high percentages of people who travel alone.
Total users rose from 44,332 in fiscal 2004 to 66,425 in 2006, and although Tokyo and Kyoto are the most popular destinations, facilities in cities such as Osaka, Hiroshima, Nikko, and Takayama also receive large numbers of visitors. One interesting trend has been the fact that, in recent years, younger travelers are increasingly drawn to the low cost of lodging in areas once thought of as flophouse districts, sparking a surprising revitalization of these districts. Those who wish to use the service, conducted in cooperation with the Japan National Tourist Organization, with the support of the Nippon Foundation, are urged to visit its website.