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Business

Hokkaido resort for rich foreigners planned

TOKYO -- A Mori Trust group investment company will develop a large extended-stay resort in Hokkaido targeting affluent visitors to Japan.

MA Platform, funded solely by Mori Trust President Akira Mori, will spend 60 billion yen ($575 million) on the project, aiming for partial opening in 2020 and completion in 2026, the year Hokkaido's capital of Sapporo hopes to host the Winter Olympics.

The resort, to be established in the Uenae area of Tomakomai city, will feature hotels and large cottages as well as health-care facilities to cater to medical tourism. It will target affluent foreigners looking to stay in Hokkaido for a week or more.

MA Platform bought the 1,057-hectare site in March from another developer that had planned a resort there. The project will be funded by loans, and the resort's operation will be outsourced to a specialty company from abroad.

Initial construction will involve a hotel with 150 guest rooms and several cottages. Hotel stays likely will be priced at over 100,000 yen a night. Hotel rooms are to increase to 330 and cottages to 40 by 2026.

The cottages will be for sale and can be designed to meet buyer preferences. A two-story cottage with total floor space of 1,000 sq. meters could be built on an 8,000-sq.-meter lot, for instance. The layout might assume that the owner is accompanied by chefs or other service providers. The owner also could rent the cottage to other travelers.

Many golf courses are nearby, and ski facilities are available as well. The resort also may offer to manage guests' yachts docked at nearby marinas. Tourists could base their Hokkaido sightseeing from this resort, which will be a 15-minute drive from New Chitose Airport.

Foreign tourism to Japan has surged over the past few years, and some of the visitors are ultrarich. MA Platform saw a shortage in resorts that cater to such demographics. The changing spending habits of foreigners visiting Japan, with their focus shifting from shopping to experiences, also appears to have contributed.

To better accommodate foreign tourists outside of Japan's major metropolitan areas, Mori Trust plans to convert the majority of its Laforet extended-stay hotels and resorts into the American brand Marriott. Mori Trust seeks to open a facility in Nara Prefecture under top-of-the-line luxury brand JW Marriott in 2020.

Lessons from the past

Tourism and hotels are generally vulnerable to economic cycles. Many resorts that sprung up during Japan's economic bubble in the late 1980s and early '90s were downsized or closed later.

In Hokkaido, a large resort built in 1993 near Lake Toya led to the collapse of a local bank. The huge facility was built without proper planning, and it could not attract enough users amid the post-bubble drop in demand. With such lessons in mind, MA Platform is focusing on extended stays by rich foreigners at the Tomakomai resort, hoping that repeated visits by these guests will lead to stable operations.

(Nikkei)

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