Japan-based MariCar sells go-kart tours of Tokyo, which it began offering on the TripAdvisor Experiences/Viator platform in 2017. General manager Paul Musashi explained how the experience of bringing its distribution online through a major OTA has affected business.
Travel Weekly: Why did you decide to make your tours available online?
Paul Musashi: We at MariCar decided to make our street go-kart experience available online to reach a wide variety of potential travelers looking for a unique and fun way to rediscover the cities of Japan.
TW: How difficult or expensive was it to get your business wired so that your product could be bookable online?
P.M.: To be honest, it was not that expensive. The in-house system at TripAdvisor Experiences/Viator had been very compatible to use, and our account manager guided us through, step by step, to have our product uploaded online. The most difficult part was that our product is very unique; all consumers need to have a valid driver's permit or license to drive our karts on the public road. Japan only recognizes certain international driving treaties with foreign countries, which means there are actually some individuals who will not be able to drive in Japan, no matter what.
And since the treaty is very complicated ... we need to communicate with our potential customers to make sure they could acquire a valid international driver's permit. As you may know, these few steps in between the supplier and consumer are the exact opposite of the one of the many merits of booking online. We can't do instant book.
TW: How much has your business grown since you became bookable on TripAdvisor Experiences/Viator?
P.M.: [Previously], our customers made reservations mainly directly through our reservation center. Most tour agencies and agents had the same obstacle of checking the validity of the international driver's permit before sending information to us. TripAdvisor Experiences/Viator was the first company that came up with a great resolution regarding the obstacle, and therefore out of all the tour agents and agencies sending us customers, TripAdvisor Experiences/Viator holds over 50% of the pie.
TW: What advice would you offer for tours and activities providers looking to make their product bookable online?
P.M.: Again, our service is very unique and requires a few more interactions with customers to actually book a reservation. We really can't imagine other tours or activities to be more complicated, so if anybody is not yet bookable online, just try it!
TW: How ready should they be for a big and/or fast boost in business?
P.M.: The only thing every supplier must be ready for is the communication you will have to do with the customers for each booking. There is always a strong chance you will receive many inquiries or bookings. Therefore, you will need to hire more people just to keep up with the demand.