The Yomiuri ShimbunSAPPORO — A new hire car service to pick up wealthy passengers who arrive in private jets has been drawing attention at Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport, where the number of inbound foreign tourists is sharply increasing.
According to operator Minorhythm Ltd., its drivers are fluent in foreign languages such as English and Chinese, and they can take guests directly from the airport to various places in Hokkaido, such as the Niseko and Furano areas.
According to the New Chitose Airport office of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, a service like this is extremely rare in Japan.
Based in Chitose, Hokkaido, Minorhythm was established in February 2017. It obtained a restricted area entrance certificate in July and began the service to transport passengers from an apron, for example, within the airport — the first of its kind at New Chitose Airport.
Minorhythm has been attracting customers in cooperation with eight companies, including an agent for airport use procedures for private jets and another engaged in aircraft management.
Passengers are transported by hire cars from their aircraft to the terminal building, and then head for their destinations after clearing immigration and customs. According to Yasunori Hase, president of Minorhythm, customers include such VIPs as foreign royalty and former heads of state, as well as people who want to avoid being noticed, such as actors and film directors.
The company operates five four-wheel drive vehicles, including a recreational vehicle, suited for roads in Hokkaido. All its drivers can speak English, and the company also began services in Chinese in February this year.
The service costs from about ¥25,000 to ¥35,000 per vehicle with two to seven passengers. Business has gone so well that the company cannot accept all requests during busy periods, the company said.
Drivers are required to offer services in foreign languages such as English. Furthermore, they need to be well informed about Hokkaido because they are asked such questions as “Are there any halal-certified ramen shops?” They are also asked to explain about sightseeing spots.
The company also obtained the necessary pass for an envisaged future service in which drivers would shepherd customers through immigration control facilities.
“We learned there are people who need our services. We’d like to be able to offer services during busy periods,” Hase said.
The number of passengers using New Chitose Airport increased to about 22.71 million in 2017 from about 15.77 million in 2011. In particular, the number of inbound foreign tourists has dramatically increased, with the number of passengers using international flights having increased to about 3.29 million in 2017, nearly four times the about 840,000 in 2011.Speech