Booming Japan opens doors for Marriott

Nara Japan.
Nara, Japan, is well known for its historical and cultural heritage. Tourism is rapidly growing in undiscovered parts of Japan.
JW Marriott is aggressively expanding its presence in Asia, making a slew of agreements with both Japanese and Chinese real estate companies to build co-branded hotels.

JW Marriott Hotel Nara is among the most recent partnerships between JW Marriott and Mori Trust Group. Mori Trust Group is a Japanese company founded in 1970 as Mori Building Development. The hotel plans to open its doors to guests in the spring of 2020, the same year as the Tokyo Olympics.

Construction on the 150-room, seven-storey hotel should start in 2017. The hotel will be built in a 4,000-square-meter site acquired for JPY480 million ($4.2 million) and will have floor space of around 15,000 square meters. Interestingly, it will be the first luxury property by JW Marriott Japan in Nara, the capital of the prefecture by the same name in the Kansai region, well- known for traditional Japanese history and culture and world heritage sites such as the Todaiji Temple, Heijio Palace and Nara Park.

“Tourism is booming in Japan and the market has seen an unprecedented increase in demand from both domestic and international travelers. We expect this trend to continue through the 2020 Olympics games in Tokyo,” said Craig S. Smith, president & managing director of Marriott International Asia pacific.

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The two companies have plans to build five hotels in Japan under the Marriott brand. The deal is part of a large hotel renovation plan that Mori announced last October and includes investment of approximately JPY16 billion ($146 million).

The five hotels would double the footprint of the Marriott Hotel brand in Japan and would boost JW Marriott’s Japanese presence by a third to some 20 properties.

“Having collaborated with us on nine hotels in Japan, Mori Trust Group has become a significant and strategic partner for Marriott International,” said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO at Marriott International.

Over the next two years, Mori Trust Group will renovate five existing Laforet properties and rebrand them as Marriott hotels, offering approximately 840 rooms. The five rebranded hotels are Lake Biwa Marriott Hotel (formerly Laforet Biwako), Nanki-Shirahama Marriott Hotel (formerly Laforet Nanki-Shirahama), Fuji Marriott Hotel (formerly Laforet Yamanakako), Izu Marriott Hotel Shuzenji (formerly Laforet Shuzenji) and Karuizawa Marriott Hotel (formerly Laforet Naka-Karuizawa). All are in some of Japan’s most scenic destinations.

“Japan has become much more affordable to international tourists with the devaluation of the yen. For example, tourism in 2013, 2014 and 2015 broke all-time records,” Smith told HOTEL MANAGEMENT. “Between January and November 2015, almost 18 million foreign visitors visited Japan, an increase of 47.5 percent. Another observation we have made is travelers, both domestic and international, want to discover other regions of Japan, beyond the gateway cities. The Mori Trust properties are well positioned for both domestic and foreign travelers who increasingly want to explore beyond the traditional cities of Japan.”

JW Marriott’s expansion plans are not just confined to Japan.

In early February, Marriott International and Eastern Crown Hotels Group, one of China’s fastest growing lodging groups, signed an exclusive development agreement to bring the Fairfield by Marriott brand to mainland China.

The agreement would see as many as 140 hotels brought under the brand in five years, with 100 of them to open by 2021. This is part of Marriott’s strategic plan to expand rapidly across a broad spectrum of price tiers and locations across the country. Each Fairfield hotel will have between 100-150 rooms.

“China is the fastest growing market in Asia for us. The rising disposable income of the middle class and development of the consumption-led economy is driving an increased demand for quality midrange accomodation,” Smith said. “Fairfield will focus on young consumers and business travelers looking for a comfortable and productive stay at a great value.” 

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