Start-up experiences three-digit growth with team of local guides under revised Licensed Guide Interpreter Act
The Japanese Licensed Guide Interpreters Act was revised in January 2018. As a result, a national license is no longer a prerequisite to operate as a paid tour guide in Japan, opening the doors for individuals without qualifications to offer their services to visiting foreign tourists.
“Magical Trip,” a service operated by Libra Inc. (Tokyo, CEO Yasuhiro Suzuki), was one of the first to react to this legislative change. Entering the market in October 2017, it has successfully organized unlicensed but enthusiastic locals as tour guides to lead international tourists in experience-based tours.
Starting the year with just 9 Trip Advisor reviews, Magical Trip now boasts 482 reviews, as well as a 250% growth in tour participants over the last 6 months.
The same period has also seen geographical expansion, with the start-up adding three new offices in Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima; and in just two months the company has diversified its tour offering from 5 to 20 different types. The company promises further exciting content in 2019.
Magical Trip receives over 800 applicants to be a new type of “tour guide”
Magical Trip has created a new structure for foreign tourists to experience Japanese culture by connecting with Japanese locals who do not hold a license but have the language skills, local knowledge, and enthusiasm.
Libra Inc. CEO, Yasuhiro Suzuki says Magical Trip’s local guides are different from stereotypical guides, whose services may be formal but impersonal. Instead they offer foreigners a rare insider view into the real life of the locals, “more like a friend showing you around their country,” he explains.
More than 800 applicants have responded to Magical Trip’s call to act as tour guides in their local neighborhoods via SNS and word of mouth, a number far exceeding the company’s expectations.
The demographics of the recruits are markedly different from traditional tour guides in Japan, with a majority being “the younger generation in their 20s to early 30s, with other forms of employment or income.” Over 90% of the applicants are in their 20s to early 30s, a group which only makes up 10% of existing Licensed Guide Interpreters.
The data suggests that Magical Trip is creating employment opportunities and additional sources of income by involving “a friendly and talented younger group who were interested in engaging with foreign tourists but were unable to do so under previous regulations.”
Demographic distribution of Magical Demographic distribution of Licensed
Trip Local Guides *1 Guide Interpreters *2
*1 Based on 497 applications to Magical Trip Local Guides only in Tokyo (excluding applicants who did not specify their age), as of Oct 2018
*2 “Employment Situation of Licensed Guide Interpreters,” Tourism Resources Division, Japan Tourism Agency, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Dec 2014
“Anyone Can Be A Tour Guide” – Creating a Platform for One-of-a-kind Travel Experiences
Magical Trip plans to expand its operations to other cities and countries, as well as adding to their portfolio of local tours, which currently focuses on bar hopping and nightlife.
It is also preparing to launch support services to assist aspiring locals to offer and express their own unique versions of Japanese cultural experiences as tour guides.
Suzuki says everyone has the potential to be a tour guide. Magical Trip’s journey will continue – as he puts it, to create a platform to make it easier for visiting tourists to connect with local guides and experience “real” local lifestyle, as the locals live it.
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