Travel.jp, Japan’s largest travel search site, is drawing eyebrow-raising numbers to its articles and reviews that would make most media companies envious.
According to Travel.jp CEO Kei Shibata, traffic to the metasearch site’s original content, written by its team of travel enthusiasts, hovers around 500,000 people each day – thanks in part to a news partnership with the LINE messaging app.
Our goal is to cover every single funnel in the metasearch.
Kei Shibata - Travel.jp
Capturing an audience of that size was a deliberate, methodical effort on Shibata’s part that began about seven years ago when he saw a gap in content between user-generated reviews ala TripAdvisor and professional articles found in guidebooks and travel media.
“Some of our users gave us comments like, ‘This website is great if I know exactly where I want to go and where to stay. But if I have a vacation coming up and I don’t know where I want to go, I need more information,’” he says.
“So we pondered what more we could do, and we thought about this idea of getting into content.”
His solution: Enlist passionate travel bloggers to provide content for his sites Travel.jp and a Singapore-based English-language travel site, Trip101.
Now, Shibata has about 550 writers for Travel.jp and 500 for Trip101 - located around the world - that produce hundreds of articles each week.
About 40% of the topics are generated by a dedicated in-house team, while the rest are initiated by the writers. Writers often follow their passions, for example castles, about which one writer has contributed more than 100 articles.
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Articles include links to partner sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com, which allow readers to click through to complete a transaction.
Writers are paid based on how well articles perform, and those who don’t regularly contribute are replaced by new writers identified by a team of recruiters tasked with finding new talent.
Shibata says Travel.jp has about 13 million users each month, and “a big chunk of that traffic is coming from the articles.”
Along with the website, one of the most effective distribution channels for the content is the LINE app, a free messaging platform in the Asia Pacific region.
Shibata’s company is an official news provider for the popular app, and he says that visibility has driven their engagement to that 500,000 reader number.
The content is also distributed through other mobile news
apps and through a partnership with JTB, the largest travel agency in Japan.
“Our goal is to cover every single funnel in the metasearch,” Shibata says.
Travel Metasearch - Just Google It?
“We are very much aware of the power of the content to penetrate those upper and down channels in travel. And clearly the articles are a very powerful way for us to increase our user base,” he says, noting that the business is growing 20 to 30% year over year.
Looking ahead, Shibata plans to develop more mobile solutions based on data from last summer that indicated 90% of traffic came that route.
“We are convinced that the users are consuming our content in-destination,” he says. “So perhaps we will work more closely with the tour and activity companies and with companies like OpenTable, to better serve them when they are in-destination.”