The Yomiuri ShimbunThe boom in new hotel openings that is under way in Tokyo, Osaka and other big cities ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is now being felt in regional areas as well.
In particular, foreign luxury hotel chains have been opening new branches in provincial areas, driven by expectations that the surge in foreign visitors to Japan will bring more wealthy travelers and others seeking luxury accommodations.
On July 28, U.S. hotel chain Marriott simultaneously opened five new hotels in five locations including Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture; the Shuzenji area of Shizuoka Prefecture; and the Nanki-Shirahama area of Wakayama Prefecture.
Previously, the hotels had been operated by major real estate developer Mori Trust Co. under the brand name Laforet. Mori Trust, a partner of Marriott, undertook a large-scale refurbishment of the hotels to ensure the quality of the guest rooms and the level of service met the Marriott’s requirements and enabled a fresh start.
The five hotels have about 830 guest rooms combined. About 30 percent of the rooms are equipped with onsen hot spring facilities, and one of the hotels, beside Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, even has a planetarium.
The hotels are operated by a subsidiary of Mori Trust. At a press conference on July 26, Mori Trust President Miwako Date said, “The interests of foreign tourists to Japan are shifting from things like shopping to the pursuit of fulfilling experiences.”
Among other hotel chains, the Park Hyatt group is scheduled to open a new hotel in Niseko, a famous ski resort town in Hokkaido that is popular with foreign skiers.
The Ritz-Carlton chain, meanwhile, plans to open a new hotel in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, in 2020 in a partnership with Tobu Railway Co. The chain already operates hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa and Kyoto prefectures.
Behind the series of new hotel openings across Japan is the short supply in accommodation facilities nationwide due to the rapid increase in foreign tourists.
According to statistics of the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of foreign visitors who stayed at least overnight in Japan in 2016 increased 5.8 percent from the previous year to 69.38 million. The annual figure was the highest on record.
If the number of foreign tourists reaches the government’s goal of 40 million in 2020, experts predict there will be a shortage of hotel guest rooms.