Hoshino Resort, Ltd PROJECT

Making Hot Spring Inns A Go-To Destination For 20-Something Travelers Through Web Design

“For every challenge thrown at 20-somethings, there is always a solution by 20-somethings.”
Working with Hoshino Resort, Loftwork revamped the KAI hot spring inn website into one for 20-somethings, created by 20-somethings.

Outline

In 2013, Hoshino Resort, Ltd. launched "KAI TABI 20s", a project that encourages young people in their twenties to experience the joy of travel and Japanese scenery, while staying at Hoshino Resort’s KAI hot springs inns – or ryokans.“KAI TABI 20s" was launched after President Yoshiro Hoshino expressed his desire for young people who don’t travel to travel more.

In order to address the financial situation of the young generation, Hoshino launched an annual plan of charging 19,000 yen per night (per person for a double room, including dinner and breakfast, service charge and tax). As of October 2021, the total number of guests had exceeded 30,000.

About the KAI Onsen Ryokan Brand

KAI is a high-quality hot spring inn (ryokan) brand operated by Hoshino Resorts nationwide. The brand identity is “traditional but new”. Its appeal lies in the comfortable Japanese-style spaces and the experience of staying in a hotel that allows visitors to rediscover the charm of the local region.

KAI Brand Site|Hoshino Resort

Project Overview

  • Client: Hoshino Resort Co., Ltd.
  • Implementation period: July – September 2021
  • Organization
    • PD: Yuhi Yanagawa, Kazuma Kitao
    • PM/CD: Mionako Ito
    • Production
      • Copywriting: Rei Horie
      • Design and coding: SETSUNA Co.
      • Still photography: Megumi Omori
      • Model: Hamashaka
      • Styling: Mie Nishitsuji
      • Hair and makeup: Megumi Kato
      • Cooperation: Kaiho Fujii, Naho Matsuzawa, Hinano Matsushita

Communicating A Future WhereOnsen Ryokan Is "The Purpose Of Travel”

KAI TABI 20s was initially launched with the aim of attracting young people to travel and lowering the barrier of entry for hot spring trips. Although the number of customers has increased steadily since the project’s launch in 2013, the company changed its PR communication strategy in 2019 since few people in their twenties in Japan still chose onsen lodges as a travel option. As such, the company changed its strategy to promote a fun and exciting image of onsen travel through a social media hashtag campaign and other activities.

The PR campaigns were successful, and in 2019, more than twice as many people used the “KAI TABI 20s” program than in the previous year. The challenges included:

  • The image conveyed was too close to the day-to-today experiences of 20-somethings and did not fully emphasize the high-quality stay experience at KAI.
  • The customers were only attracted to special accommodation plans, and it was difficult to retain them or turn them into enthusiasts of the brand.

 

In 2021, Hoshino set out to create a future where onsen ryokan is a common travel choice for people in their twenties, with ryokans as their destination of choice. Hoshino Resort partnered with Loftwork to realize this vision and help with PR communications.

During the development phase, Loftwork held workshops with members of the target audience to determine the characteristics of places that evoked a sense of belonging for travel-loving people in their twenties. To create a more realistic concept of “longing” for today’s 20-somethings, the team also employed creators in their twenties for various aspects of the project, including content planning, lighting and photography. Loftwork then revamped the “KAI TABI 20s” campaign website to make it thoroughly “youth-oriented”.

Outputs

 

The three photos of the hot springs and guest rooms showcase the high quality of the ryokan and allow users to imagine themselves spending time at the inn.
The copy on the website was written by people in their twenties, who expressed the appeal of KAI through a point of view that the target audience can resonate with.
Loftwork paid special attention to the design and coding of the website, so users could experience the high quality aesthetic on both a smartphone or a PC.
A UI interface was implemented to to make it easier for users to find accommodation, allowing users to “select from photos” and “select from region”.

Kai Tabi 20s Official Website | Hoshino Resorts

Story

Creative Director Mionako Ito was in charge of the management and creative direction of the project and is of the same generation as the target audience of “KAI TABI 20s”.

Communicating the charm of onsen ryokan “as it is”

Early in the project, Loftwork conducted research to determine the direction of the “KAI TABI 20s” website renewal, finding thatKAI was full of appealing details. It possesses spaces that are furnished with traditional crafts, Japanese-style guest rooms and seasonal kaiseki meals that make the most of seasonal ingredients unique to the area.

In addition, the new “KAI TABI 20s” offers an optional service that allows guests to experience the charms of the local area without having to visit the tourist attractions. For example, a welcome sweets box containing dried sweets such as wasanbon sugar, amber agar confectionary and other wagashi , as well as matcha green tea and a “blissful nighttime set” that includes local alcoholic beverages and staff-recommended snacks to accompany a perfect evening conversation.

The Loftwork team determined it would be best to present all these experiences on the website “as is”. At first glance, it seemed like a simple theme, but the team faced many challenges on the way to its realization.

Finding Appealing Attributes For 20-Somethings Through Their Eyes

If you want to find appealing attributes that stand-out to 20-somethings, then the best way is to think about it with people in their twenties. Loftwork involved people of the same generation as the target audience in various aspects of creating the website.

First, Loftwork held a workshop with women in their 20s to figure out the facilities and services they found the most appealing in their world. The workshop participants were people who had unique ways of working and lifestyles that they shared on social media. They also love to travel. Using the theme of “finding a world that I would like to visit,” Loftwork asked the women to choose photos or services of the “world” they would like to visit and explain the appeal.

The Loftwork team conducted research through this method because respondents become too conscious of the interviewer’s questions and the issues they want to solve in one-on-one interviews and may express opinions that are not what they really feel. Through the workshop, however, workshop participants will provide more straightforward answers to their hobbies and tastes.

Loftwork then derived a design concept based on the information gathered from the research.

The Standard is “Will It Stick With Us?”

Copywriting and photography defined the image of the campaign website. Generally, a company commissions a copywriter to write the copy for a website. But this time Loftwork decided to partner with Ms. Rei Horie, producer of the craft gin “HOLON”, to convey the appealing attributes of the world while focusing on what would stick with us personally.

The photographer and the model were also in their twenties. As people in their 20s tend to gather information from visuals on social media and online, we invited stylists and hair and make-up artists to join the photography team to improve the quality of the photos.

The model is photographed in a natural and relaxed pose, without looking at the camera in a pose that is easily relatable.
In directing the photoshoot, Loftwork team aimed to balance the ideal and the realistic – “not too dramatic, but still appealing” – and considered details such as the placement of accessories and the angles of the shot.

Voice

Capturing The “Real” Needs And Perceptions Of 20-Somethings

  • Mr. Shono Kashiki, KAI Marketing, Marketing Group, Hoshino Resort, Hoshino Resort, Ltd.

“KAI TABI 20s” is a project supporting travelers in their twenties by Hoshino Resort’s onsen ryokan brand, KAI. While renewing the program, we also renewed the website, partnering with Loftwork.

We worked with Loftwork from concept creation to photography and website development to help people in their twenties understand the benefits of onsen ryokan more deeply.

As the opinions of 20-somethings were crucial to the process, Loftwork assembled a design unit comprised of women in their twenties. They worked with us to discover what words and photos would hook our target demographic. .

The collaboration allowed us to grasp the real needs and perceptions of 20-somethings and have that reflected in the website design. In fact, we have received positive comments from people in their twenties who have visited the renewed website, such as “I really want to go there” and “It’s exciting to look at.”

We would like to thank Loftwork for creating a wonderful website that resonates with people in their twenties.

Member

Kazuma Kitao

Loftwork Inc.
Senior Creative Director

Profile

Yuhi Yanagawa

Yuhi Yanagawa

株式会社ロフトワーク
Producer

Voice

“"We created a website aimed at 20-somethings, involving 20-somethings, including myself. It was a challenging approach, as we usually conduct research and interviews with professionals and experts, so it was different from the typical influencer marketing. However, the information we obtained from the members who worked with us was exactly what 20-somethings were thinking. The answers we derived by organizing this information were the answers that emerged because of this approach, and I think they were a perfect fit for the KAI TABE 20s program.

For every challenge thrown at 20-somethings, there is always a solution by 20-somethings. This project allowed us to think this way. I will continue to challenge this kind of unprecedented approach in the future.

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