Posh hotels are scarce in Japan—and increasingly lucrative

WITH ITS cool modernist interiors and views of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, Hotel Okura has been the choice of the well-heeled since its gilded lobby was unveiled in 1962 as a symbol of Japan’s emergence from post-war austerity. Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister, enjoys a late-night tipple at the bar. Yoko Ono takes a suite on her trips to the city. Every American president from Gerald Ford on, has graced its rooms. Donald Trump may well have done, too, had the Okura not been shut for refurbishment when he visited Japan in May.

One reason for the Okura’s popularity is the lack of alternatives. Japan has roughly the same number of five-star hotels as Vietnam, and fewer than London or Paris. The Okura has stopped taking bookings for next summer’s Olympics for want of rooms, many of which have been earmarked for organisers. The dearth of high-end accommodation has the government considering tax breaks and cheap loans to help build 50 “world-class” hotels—though not in time for the Tokyo games.

Japan came late to mass tourism, points out Koki Hara, a real-estate lawyer. For decades the government pushed industrial growth, so the country’s cities filled up with drab business hotels that catered to armies of salarymen. Property developers dominated the real-estate market and clung to most of the prime city-centre spots. High...

via Business Feeds

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