APA Group—owner of APA Hotel, Japan's largest hospitality organization with 347 hotels comprising 56,607 rooms throughout the country—partnered with N.J.-based Friendwell Group of Companies (which originated in Taiwan and now owns more than 3,000 rooms across several brands) to launch and develop the APA Hotel Franchise in the U.S. The joint-venture company, which will be based in Delaware, opened the 200-room APA Hotel Woodbridge at Metropark, N.J., today. The hotel (formerly the Hilton Woodbridge Hotel) is owned by Friendwell and will be managed by APA, bringing in what APA founder Toshio Motoya believes is a new philosophy of hospitality that emphasizes corporate social responsibility and efficiency.
“We want to spread our concept throughout the United States,” Motoya said at a press conference the day before the hotel opened. The company’s “New Urban Hotel” concept focuses on sustainability, with carbon dioxide emissions that are a third of average urban guestrooms, he said. The showers are aerated to conserve water and the window curtains are insulated to prevent drafts that affect room temperature.
While renovations like the new Woodbridge hotel will not have all of these eco-conscious features, new-build properties going forward will, he noted. The APA Hotel Woodbridge will remain open for business during a multiphased renovation and redesign. The public areas are slated to be completed by summer 2016, followed by all guestrooms by spring 2017.
Friendwell founder and owner Jason Cheng said that the first stage of the joint venture will be new developments before the company moves on to convert 16 hotels to the new brand and attract more franchisees.
Going forward, Cheng and Motoya are looking to open a hotel in New York City before expanding to the rest of the country—but for now, they want to focus on what they already have. Currently, Friendwell has a three-year exclusive franchise contract with APA. “After three years, we will pick up the pace,” Motoya said, predicting 100 hotels in the portfolio within five years.
The partnership of businesses with ties to Japan, New Jersey and Taiwan also reflects a more significant business opportunity: Paul Wen-Liang Chang, Taiwan ambassador to New York and director general, TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office), who opened the press conference, told the gathered crowd that Taiwan wants to work with the U.S. and Japan as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, noting that 30 percent of Taiwan’s trade is with 12 members of the Partnership.
Above: APA Hotel Franchise COO Chris Akoury; APA Hotel President Fumiko Motoya; APA Group founder Toshio Motoya; Friendwell Chairman Tsun-Jen Cheng; and Friendwell CEO Jason Cheng.