luxury hotels in tokyo
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Posted 14 February 2004 - 12:40 AM
from japan today
There was a time not too long ago when older Japanese hotels like the Okura, Imperial and New Otani were consistently ranked by travel guides among the world's top hotels and were the first choice for visitors.
How times have changed. While those hotels still offer high-end accommodation, they find themselves in a race to catch up as a wave of foreign luxury hotels descends on Tokyo one after the other.
The first luxury hotel boom started in the early 1990s with the arrival of the Park Hyatt, Westin and Four Seasons at Chinzan-so. The economic bubble had burst, but those hotels had been planned long before. Then in late 2002, a new wave began with the opening of the 57-room Four Seasons Hotel facing Tokyo Station. Last year saw the Grand Hyatt (390 rooms) open at Roppongi Hills.
Scheduled to open in the next three years are the Conrad (300 rooms) at Shiodome in 2005, the Mandarin Oriental (170 rooms) in Nihombashi in 2006, the Peninsula (350 rooms) in Yurakucho in 2007 and the Ritz-Carlton (250 rooms) atop the new Tokyo Mid-town Project on the former site of the Defense Agency in Roppongi in 2008. In addition to the luxury hotels, 2003 saw the opening of Japanese hotels such as the Strings in Shinagawa, Royal Park Shiodome Tower and Park Hotel Tokyo, both at Shiodome Site.
Tokyo trails New York, London
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, there are 687 hotels in Tokyo (including business hotels), and a spokesman forecast that by 2007, there will 700 hotels, providing 4,000 more rooms than there are now. But Tokyo still lags behind cities like New York and London, says Takashi Nakayama, a spokesman for Mitsui Fudosan, which is handling the Tokyo Mid-town Project in Roppongi.
"As of last year, Tokyo had 5,520 top-tier hotel rooms, compared to 6,064 in New York and 6,565 in London. Up until about 10 years ago, there were really no super luxury hotels in Tokyo," he says. Luxury rooms are generally defined by their room rates — starting at 40,000-50,000 yen a night.
While the hotel boom is exciting for the city, just why are all these hotels coming to Japan which can't seem to get itself out of a recession? Is there going to be a demand for all these hotels? And how are existing hotels going to cope with the challenge?
The decision by many foreign luxury hotels to come to Tokyo is linked to falling property prices and the redevelopment projects going on across the city. The land ministry has declared that at least 25 percent of space in newly developed projects has to be reserved for facilities other than offices and residences.
Big transformation in Roppongi
The 78,000-square-meter site of the Tokyo Mid-town Project — which is about the same size as Roppongi Hills — will include residential, commercial and office zones. The Ritz-Carlton will occupy the 45th to 54th floors of the tower and overlook four hectares of parkland.
"Lifestyles are changing in Tokyo. People want to live, work and play in the same area," says Nakayama. "Roppongi is going to become a new business metropolis. In this one-mile area that we will be at the heart of, one in six residents is non-Japanese, and there are 40 embassies and nine international schools. A top-class hotel is indispensable for a project like this."
Brand loyalty will be a big factor in the hotel battle, both for inbound and outbound travelers. According to the Japan Travel Bureau, 16 million Japanese travel abroad every year. By boosting awareness of their brands in Japan among potential travelers, foreign hotel chains are positioning themselves to be the first choice of Japanese travelers no matter what city in the world they go to.
St Regis was first casualty
While the stakes are high, so are the risks. The luxury hotels, except for Grand Hy