The new offering will help analyze travelers’ diverse needs and provide an unprecedented level of service customization.
Tokyo, Japan (Jan. 16, 2019) – EXest Inc., a Tokyo-based C2C tour company, is collaborating with Fujitsu Laboratories, a premier research center owned by one of Japan’s largest companies, on the development of the ‘Konomy AI travel consultant’ (Konomy). Konomy will make personalized suggestions for places to visit in Japan to travelers who respond to a brief questionnaire. This new service will be available to travelers on EXest’s C2C platform WOW U (https://wow-u.jp/) where professional tour guides and travelers can communicate directly to plan private, guided tours throughout all 47 prefectures of Japan. The technology used is based on Fujitsu Laboratories’ AI.
Many first-time travelers who come to Japan know little about the country and end up visiting only the most commonly-known destinations, such as Tokyo, and the Kansai area (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, etc.). This means they miss out on authentic experiences off the beaten track. In addition, the fact that foreign visitors are concentrated in such a small number of locations poses challenges to local governments in Japan. The number of international visitors is increasing at a fast pace (19.3% in 2017) in the lead up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the Japanese government is also pursuing an aggressive strategy of attracting even more tourists in order to benefit the national economy. This leads to the risk that the volume of visitors may exceed the capacity of accommodation and public transport networks in some locations across the densely-populated prefectures. Meanwhile, many attractive destinations in Japan go unnoticed, not benefitting from the influx of visitors to Japan.
EXest’s development of Konomy is part of its efforts to address these issues and contribute to creating unique experiences that benefit both travelers and local economies. In creating recommended travel plans, Konomy analyzes travelers’ preferences and needs in order to find places that are the best match for them and their individual interests, regardless of whether they already know about the destination or not. Most travel websites only allow users to search based on categories and locations they already know about. In contrast, Konomy allows users to discover new things independent of their previous knowledge.
The technical details of Konomy are discussed in the press release of EXest’s partner, Fujitsu Laboratories*. What is unique about the specific application of AI in EXest’s case is that machine learning is combined with human curation in order to make use of both cutting-edge technology and local knowledge. Moreover, while other attempts throughout the world have been made to combine these two, Konomy is a rare case where curation is professional but not done in-house. Instead, tour guides with a national certification who register on the WOW U platform will be able to participate in the curation of content, making use of their many years of experience physically interacting with real visitors from around the world. This approach is true to EXest’s vision of bringing together people who would not otherwise have been able to meet.
*Fujitsu’s press release: http://www.fujitsu.com/global/about/resources/news/press-releases/2019/0116-01.html
Figure 1: Questionnaire (work-in-progress)
Figure 2: Recommendations (work-in-progress)
Figure 3: Basic principle of the AI system
Konomy AI Travel Consultant is a registered trademark in Japan, owned by EXest Inc. The name derives from the Japanese word konomi which can be translated as ‘taste’ or ‘preference’. The system is currently under development and will be released on the WOW U website soon.
About EXest Inc.
EXest Inc. is a Tokyo-based travel company that aims to connect people who would not otherwise be able to meet by introducing inbound visitors to lesser known places, food and culture in Japan and connecting them with local guides. Its mission is to contribute to local revitalization and internationalization in Japan. Its activities include running WOW U, a C2C tour platform, and WOW U-media which produces videos and articles together with local broadcasters and writers throughout Japan and beyond.
EXest’s corporate website (Japanese): https://www.exest.jp
WOW U (English): https://wow-u.jp/
WOW U-media (English): https://www.facebook.com/WOWUmedia/
WOW U-media on Facebook (English): https://www.facebook.com/WOWUmedia/
Please direct all enquiries about this press release to Miyuki Kashiwado and Chihiro Masuda at email@example.com