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Business

Japanese hotels face room shortages as tourism booms

TOKYO -- Hotels in Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities in Japan are nearing capacity as tourists stream in, leaving some travelers struggling to secure rooms.

     Foreign customers at Hotel Okura Tokyo jumped 14% on the year during the January-June half, comprising over half of visitors for the first time since the hotel began keeping records in 2004. Average room prices at the Prince Hotels group in June showed year-over-year growth for the 40th straight month.

     Occupancy rates at hotels in central Tokyo hit 86.3% during the first half, while rates in Osaka reached 89.8%, said STR Global, a U.K. hotel market analysis company. Hotels typically are short-staffed when occupancy exceeds 85%, leading to declines in service.

     Japanese travelers are choosing to stay in the country as the yen weakens, exacerbating the problem. Travel company JTB sees Japanese traveling overseas in the July 15-Aug. 31 summer vacation period falling by 50,000 on the year to 2.55 million but expects an increase of 160,000 in domestic travelers, to 75.61 million.

     Fujita Kanko's Shinjuku Washington Hotel in Tokyo, which previously drew mostly business travelers, plans to increase its number of twin and double rooms. The hotel sees more revenue from attracting tourists, who sleep multiple to a room, than from its usual clientele. "Reservations have certainly gotten harder to come by," sighed one regular at Hotel Okura.

     Travel companies are clamoring for their share of the limited pool of rooms. Booking site Rakuten is wooing hotels and inns by sending representatives to help deal with foreign visitors and providing other assistance. Getting closer to hotel management could win the site a number of rooms to offer its customers.

(Nikkei)

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