Hit Habit Forecast is a regular column of the Hit Habit Makers, a group of young planners at Hakuhodo HQ that gamely stood up to say they were going to create hit habits—not hit products—as consumption shifts from purchasing things to purchasing experiences. Analyzing social media accounts and purchasing data of highly sophisticated users and conducting analysis on popular articles, etc. in a variety of media that have their fingers on the pulse of social trends: this is the bold, new challenge of forecasting hit habits that are about to break.
Hello. I am Ikumi Baba of the Hit Habit Makers.
The new habit I would like to introduce is “themed virtual trips.” Enjoying several destinations related to a particular theme in one go, through online tours and the like rather than actually traveling to them, is a new kind of travel. In addition to the good things about regular travel, I think traveling virtually to various places, instantaneously, on the internet provides a new value you can’t get from real-world travel.
An easy-to-understand example of themed virtual trips is the use of virtual tours. On a certain website selling travel products, the most popular virtual tour during Japan’s year-end and New Year holiday period was a live product that took in the first sunrise of the New Year in six major cities around the world. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that the tour’s concept—honoring the first sunrise of the year—was popular because it bundled together more than one place. Other tours taking in multiple countries also featured in the top rankings.
We also saw portents of themed virtual trips around the theme “first shrine visits of the New Year.” Several shrines offer online shrine visit services to enable people to pay their respects even as the pandemic rages. Among my male acquaintances is one who took the opportunity of the New Year to visit multiple shrines online. While most people prefer to visit in person, if the number of shrines offering such services increases, it may become possible to use them to visit multiple shrines associated with specific deities to pray for a specific purpose, say, your studies, work or love life.
Lastly, we have food-related themed virtual trips. This is a pretty personal experience. I’ve been really into Japanese mushroom hotpot lately, and this is an adventure I tried to create myself. Originally, I was just buying a bunch of different varieties of mushrooms for my hot pots, but when I was on a certain online supermarket, I discovered that you can buy the same variety of mushroom produced in different parts of the country, so I tried making an all-maitake mushroom hot pot. Thanks to how easy digital makes accessing the same food produced in multiple regions, I think this is a “digital” way of having fun. That evening, I enjoyed maitake from different parts of Japan like I was taking a jaunt around the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one reason for the spread of themed virtual trips, but this is not merely a negative change. I think that it is evidence that more companies and sei-katsu-sha—Hakuhodo’s term for the holistic person—are cleverly taking advantage of digital’s ability to jump through space and time as its scope of use widens in the pandemic.
By the way, as I mentioned in Ouchi Kiko, my earlier article, if you look at the number of searches in the last year you can see how expectations about travel have changed. As noted then, searches plummeted with the first wave of the coronavirus, then picked up with the announcement of the Japanese government’s Go To Travel campaign to promote domestic travel. Searches increased again when journeys to and from Tokyo were added to the campaign in mid-September, then plummeted again when the campaign was suspended due to the resurgence of the coronavirus. Searches are currently at their lowest ebb in the last 12 months. You could say that it was like cold water was thrown on the desire to travel, which until then had been swelling gradually. Even if themed virtual trips are kickback for the squashing of that increase in anticipation about travel, I think they will continue to spread going forward.
Lastly, let’s think about business opportunities offered by themed virtual trips.
Examples of themed virtual trips business opportunities
■ Travel companies planning and promoting “themed trips” around travel themes that people like to enjoy in the spring
■ TV programs and travel companies working together to create “traceable travel programming” in which themed virtual trips to the destinations shown on the program are made available on the website immediately after the program airs
■ Retail chains having their stores around the country work together to offer products on their online supermarkets that allow people to taste test a specific item produced in different regions of Japan
And so on.
It seems we will be spending more time at home again, so I’m planning to take advantage of themed virtual trips to get through it with my spirits up.