Sports Travel & Hospitality (STH) Japan


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Brendan Delahunty, President, Sports Travel & Hospitality (STH) Japan

Customer satisfaction is the key to success in the sports travel and hospitality industry. In fact, the success of organizations operating in the hospitality industry is entirely hinged upon their ability to provide remarkable yet unique experiences to customers. Although businesses are well aware of this reality, only a few have been able to carve out a space in this competitive market. Sports Travel & Hospitality (STH) Japan is a company that has been successful in providing exceptional experiences for their customers and in building a large, global following through its services.

Founded in 2017, Sports Travel & Hospitality Japan (STH) is a Joint Venture between STH Group and JTB Corporation. JTB is the largest travel agent in Japan and one of the largest in the world with offices in 30 countries; while STH Group is a Joint Venture between Sodexo and the Mike Burton Group. Backed by such mega-corporations, STH Japan was initially incorporated to manage and deliver the exclusive Official Hospitality program for Rugby World Cup 2019.

Cristina Merino, STH Japan Head of Travel & Hospitality, sheds light on their first hospitality program. “We created hospitality packages at each of the 12 venues and built a flagship temporary structure which included 18 private suites and a shared restaurant,”.. With a total seating capacity of 1, 300 people, it became the first structure of its kind in Japan. And that has set the benchmark for sports hospitality in Japan.

Since then, the company has grown with the ambition to secure a long-standing and excellent reputation in Japan. Today, the company is an Official Travel Agent for Rugby World Cup France 2023 and the exclusive distributor of Formula 1 Paddock Club packages in Japan.

Remarkable Success

Cristina Merino, Head of Travel & Hospitality

The success of STH can be attributed to its loyal and experienced team of international sports hospitality and travel experts and a fully bilingual Japan-based team who are passionate about the delivery of an exemplary fan experience. This is further underpinned by extreme attention paid to every detail of the customer journey, from package purchase to package delivery. 

“Our management style is one of collaboration, transparency and trust. We can proudly say that every rights holder that we have worked with is a strong advocate of our company,” says Brendan Delahunty, STH Japan President. He further adds, “We have had the privilege to have worked on some of the largest global sporting events to be ever hosted in Japan and to be recognized for our service delivery and innovation,”.

Several factors make STH Japan unique from other sports hospitality providers . While the company’s portfolio of past and current events is second to none, STH was the only company to be authorized to provide official hospitality within the main venues at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Rugby World Cup 2019.

Another factor that makes the company different from its peers is its unique operating model. The company has adopted a model that follows a series of key processes to develop concepts that create a hierarchy of innovative hospitality experiences relevant to each event’s stature, location and audience. The implementation of this strategic plan has resulted in record sales at events overseen by its team. “Our model has been developed through detailed research and analysis and creates a bespoke range of innovative travel and hospitality solutions, built upon each event’s exacting stakeholder requirements,” affirms Merino.

Unlike other companies, STH evaluates and executes every step of the customer journey to ensure an exceptional experience, and then plans and organizes the supply chain and infrastructure to deliver a fully integrated travel or hospitality operation. By seamlessly integrating data and analytics with a personal touch, STH Japan ensures unique fan experiences to customers. 

To this end, the company has invested in the development of its own IT systems that its teams use to ensure the company delivers an end-to-end guest management experience and maintains accurate client records. “Any updates made to records by sales, marketing, or client services will be reflected across the entire global system. We securely manage the booking preferences and client details of thousands of travel and hospitality clients from around the world,” adds Delahunty.

Customer Relationships & Future Plans

As with every business that pivoted during the pandemic, STH has also accelerated the deployment of technology and systems to accommodate shifts in the way it works, communicates, and engages with customers. As a customer-centric service provider, the customer is at the center of everything they do. From the time a customer browses packages on their website to the time customers visit their lounges on event day, the company ensures that they provide the best possible experience every step of the way.

Going forward, STH Japan is in advanced talks with key international and domestic rights holders to supply travel packages with tickets to some of the most sought-after sporting events. STH was awarded a Class 1 travel license in 2020 and that has allowed the company to expand its product offering and tap into the evolving aspirations of Japanese travelers following the record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. “Currently we have travel tours on offer for sports fans who want to follow their favorite teams and players to see them in action,” adds Delahunty.“We see additional opportunities to enhance the travel and hospitality experience for Japanese customers by working closely with our shareholders and leveraging our global networks. We are extremely excited about what’s to come” concludes Merino.

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