Message from the CEO

CEOMD

One solid step toward the future!

Since its founding by CEO Chulmo Ku in Beppu in 1993, JTC has cultivated its growth through countless encounters with customers, business partners, and employees.
One of the major influences on the company’s growth was the meeting with now Executive Director Akiyama.
I would like to hear about your efforts to strengthen your business including how CEO Ku and Executive Director Akiyama met and how you see your business developing into the future.

We want to know how you two first met.

  • It was thirteen years ago, in October 2004, when I arrived to Beppu Fujikan Hotel.
  • Ah, is it that long ago?
  • As a major hot spring, Beppu has a lot of South Korean tourists, so I came to wonder just so modestly why the hotel I was working for was registering a low occupancy rate. So, I did some investigation and found out that there was a Tax-free shop which targeted South Korean tourists visiting Beppu where my hotel was located. Then, desperate for anything that might help, I went up to CEO Ku and asked him to share information on South Korean travel agencies.
  • At that time, considering the character of the business, I thought that it wasn’t such a good idea to focus on a specific hotel and declined to help out. Since he returned several times, however, I was moved by his eagerness and shared an agency with him, which was the start. Judging from his face, I could see his intelligence and capability.
  • Thanks to several pieces of advice from CEO Ku, the hotel I worked for overcame its crisis and put itself on continuous growth. I still remember his gratitude and how much I owe him.
  • If you say so, I feel rewarded for sharing travel agencies with you then. More than anything else, I remember admiring Mr. Akiyama’s quick judgment and action.
  • And three years after that, I heard CEO Ku say, “We need more talent to increase sales and improve management.”
  • With his background in finance and management, and his erstwhile experience in hotel business which deepened his understanding of tourism industry, I thought he was the perfect person for bolstering the company’s financial and management aspects. Afterwards, thanks to the good work by Mr. Akiyama who has excellent abilities and a sense of balance, our company has established a framework to develop from a private store to a corporation.

What made you decide to run a Tax-free shop?

  • Due to my grandmother who lived in Japan for a long time, I encountered Japanese's culture & product since my childhood which drew my attention towards the country of Japan. During my childhood, Japan, as portrayed by my grandmother, was a country of beautiful fairytales, a fantasy land. And I vividly remember my gratification with the excellent quality and curious design of Japan-made stationery, which my relatives living in Japan brought as gifts. All this naturally led to my continuous interest in Japan, and I ended up joining a master’s program in Tourism at Rikkyo University, an authoritative graduate program in Japan. Especially in the field of tourism, the belief that, “As people gain enough clothes, food, and shelter leisure time will rapidly increase the number of travelers,” convinced me that the tourism industry would register growth without fail. After graduating from the graduate school, I opened a small Tax-free shop in Beppu with ample tourism resources, thinking that “Building on my understanding of the tourism industry, I want to share with a lot of people the big gratification I experienced by creating an opportunity to provide quality products for tourists in Japan.”
    Gifts have such a philosophical dimension to them that the affection of the giving person and the appreciation of the recipient are conveyed. Thus, it is my business motto to think that the more gifts we sell, the more the world becomes a world full of thanks and love.

When compared to your competitors, what do you think are the strengths of JTC?

  • Currently, as many as 40,000 retail businesses are Tax-free to tourists visiting Japan, and most of them are for free independent travelers. In contrast, JTC runs stores that target group travelers, and our strengths can be summarized this way.
    • When most of the businesses were inbound tour operators starting up from a small size, our company focused on relationships from its outset and quickly responded to customer tendencies and needs.
    • As early as when competitors had yet to push for their own information systematization, our company implemented systematization to achieve transparency and thereby strove to build mutual trust with inbound tour operators.
    • Breaking from small-size business management to turn into a company, our company has promoted increased management efficiency through its organization as a company and thereby took the lead in fostering talented professionals.
  • In addition to that,
    • The company added a lot of stores along the golden routes group travelers (tourist routes that go through major tourism cities such as Tokyo-Mount Fuji-Nagoya-Osaka).
    • Our company moved early in preparing to deploy stores in the Kyushu region (Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima) which housed a lot of cruise ship customers and attracted multiple shopping tours.
    • Our company came up with a point-of-sale product lineup consisting of several tens of thousands of products to ensure one-stop shopping for group travelers with limited time for shopping.
    This method was successful due to the clear division of roles that maximized the strengths of individual members, which in turn brought synergy to the organization beyond comparison with our competitors.

What do you think of the phenomenal achievement of 25 Tax-free stores (including 3 temporary stores) and 948 employees (including 700 full-time employees)?

  • As a Tax-free shop, which started with a small number of employees, gradually growing in size, I feel a sense of responsibility weighing on my shoulders grows infinitely. Once again, I give my deep-felt thanks to everyone who has supported us including our employees, business partners, and my family. I want to go from here to contribute to the development of the local community by increasing satisfaction and responding to our customers and business partners trust as a guide to life for not only our employees, but also their families.
    I feel proud in seeing an employee who joined the company years ago now working to build an ideal store as a manager. In addition to the joy of bearing out a long span of time through a year, 5 years, or 10 years until you finally witness the realization of huge growth, we know the unimaginable kind of growth achieved by employees who have flexible thinking and daring execution.
    In order to become a company respected by stakeholders and society in the future, all of us here at JTC will continue to devote ourselves to realizing our vision with responsibility and pride in the work that each employee has undertaken.

Please tell us your vision for the future.

  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympics serves as a catalyst for Japan’s popularity. As a tourism power, Japan has distinctive tourism resources that boast of the four seasons, beautiful mountains and seas, hot springs, Japanese food, culture, and history. We look forward to many more tourists visiting Japan, and we want to share with a lot of people our warmth and gratitude through our Tax-free shop and other businesses in tourism.
    Also, we’d like to deploy an attractive pre-departure Duty-free shop in Japan which will be visited by not only tourists visiting Japan, but also those Japanese customers scheduled to fly out of the country, thus growing into a company that will compare to the world’s first-rate companies for the full gamut of tourism industry.