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Business Insight


Business Insight

Room for More

Akiko Okamoto

More and more travelers are coming to Japan, but many are struggling to find a place to stay. They're finding hotels booked solid -- so some businesses are getting creative to accommodate them.

Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto...Filled with shrines and temples, it's one of the country's top tourist destinations. But that popularity is creating some problems for visitors.

A Dutch tourist says it was really hard to find accommodation in Kyoto over the holidays, so he had to stay in Osaka instead.

It's not only tourists. Businesspeople are having a hard time as well. A businessman says neither he nor his colleagues can book a hotel when they travel to Kyoto for business. He says accommodation is definitely lacking.

The soaring demand is prompting hotel managers to get creative. One room now accommodates 3 guests, but it required some adjustments. The room used to be a reasonably spacious room for 2 guests. In the new room, the 2 beds are pushed together, creating more space for a futon. Shrinking the TV stand also freed up some valuable floor space.

Their method may be simple, but it's allowed the hotel to accommodate 100 more guests. A staff member says they are getting more guests from abroad including group travelers, so they decided to take action by renovating.

The shortage of accommodation has become a business opportunity for one real estate developer. The firm bought an old office building and turned it into a guest house in just 8 months. There is a family or group option -- a room for 4. It looks standard but you can still see the remains of the old office building, like a pillar.

The hotel used the space between the pillars to squeeze in a couch and a lamp, and presto! An en-suite lounge. A step is another clever workaround. It covers the plumbing for the bathroom.

The guesthouse also meets the needs of budget travelers. A 140-square-meter floor became a capsule-style room, with enclosed beds stacked side by side. The area behind a curtain is left-over space. That's been turned into a small common room where guests can relax. A guest says it's his first time living in a capsule. He says it's small, really clean with few things, but it has just what he needs.

The hotel operators are in the midst of renovating another office building in Tokyo. That will open by the end of this year. They hope to open 20 more in Osaka, Fukuoka, and other cities in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

They say they can respond quickly to the need for hotels because all they have to do is remodel the inside, and that can be done in a short time at a low cost.

Hotels are under construction across Japan to cope with the influx of tourists. In the meantime, the hospitality sector is pulling out all the stops to ensure all visitors have a roof over their heads.

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