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Hotel Okura counts on post-virus travel boom with Kyoto annex

Operator plans first new namesake location in Japan in decades next year

A rendering of Hotel Okura's new Kyoto annex, which is designed for those seeking a luxe experience at a smaller hotel. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Okura)

TOKYO -- Hotel Okura will open the first new Japanese location of its namesake brand in 20 years to prepare for a tourism rebound after COVID-19 vaccines reach more people worldwide.

The facility, which will serve as an annex to the existing Kyoto Hotel Okura, is slated to begin operations in January 2022. It will be developed by Mitsubishi Estate.

A standard room will cover about 40 sq. meters and cost around 40,000 to 50,000 yen ($365 to $455) per night. The annex will stand four stories tall and include 60 guest rooms but no event venues.

Hotel Okura will initially target domestic customers at the Kyoto annex and will court affluent guests from abroad as international travel recovers. More travelers are seeking smaller hotels to limit their exposure to the coronavirus, and Hotel Okura hopes that the annex will appeal to this set as well as to those desiring a fancier experience than at the main Kyoto hotel, which will also be renamed the Hotel Okura Kyoto.

Despite a plunge in travelers amid the pandemic, many other domestic and international hotel operators are also expanding aggressively in Japan. Imperial Hotel plans to open a new 11 billion yen location in Kyoto in 2026 and to renovate its Tokyo flagship location by fiscal 2036.

Hilton is opening its superluxe Roku Kyoto, LXR Hotels and Resorts, in September. Marriott International plans to expand to more than 100 hotels in Japan by 2022 from 70.

Overseas players account for about 80% of new luxury hotels in Tokyo and nearly 70% in Kyoto slated to open between 2019 and 2026, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. Although most of these projects were put into motion before COVID-19, few have been reconsidered over it.

"There is a shortage of luxury hotels in Japan, and the field is expected to grow post-coronavirus," said Kiyoshi Tsuchiya, director for hotels at CBRE.

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