Posts by Kazuto Shibayama - Tokyo

Japanese travel agency HIS gets buzz with special rates for disaster victims

Thousands of people were left homeless by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, most of whom struggled with enormous stress living in crammed evacuation sites. To help them escape for a while, HIS, one of Japan’s major travel agencies, began offering disaster victims overseas exclusives in late March. People could travel to destinations around the world for as long as two weeks to a month, paying special low rates ranging from ¥50,000–¥90,000 (about $600–$1,100), which included flight, accommodation and breakfast. HIS took care of all paperwork, including replacing lost passports. By the end of April, all the packages had sold out.

Many companies have done something to help the victims, mostly making donations and sometimes donating a percentage of sales, which enables consumers to help too. HIS’s initiative was unique in asking actual victims to buy the company’s product. Since the prices were so low, however, it was seen as a contribution to recovery efforts that was unique to HIS and the category.

Ever since the Tohoku earthquake, it has became the norm for companies to contribute to disaster-relief efforts, purely as a “social obligation” rather than a branding activity, given the risk that overt marketing around such efforts be seen as “hypocritical commercialism.” But since the HIS plan benefited victims both functionally and emotionally, there was no criticism. Using the company’s core competency and at the same time dealing with its inevitable overstock of vacation packages resulting from the disaster, HIS gained more public recognition than it would have with a typical cash donation. This is a great example of addressing both a business problem and consumer need at the same time.

Photo Credit:

H.I.S. 被災者向けの海外長期滞在プランを格安で提供

柴山 一人 (東京)