Hotels catering to guests’ specific interests increasing in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A dog plays with its owners at inumo Shibakoen’s dog park in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Hotels that cater to guests’ preferences and interests, such as pets, cycling, movies or books, have been popping up one after another. Businesses are trying hard to set themselves apart from their rivals with original ideas, hoping to improve a declining occupancy rate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A hotel called inumo Shibakoen that opened in February in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, has an 80-square-meter space as a dog park in its basement, which is furnished with subtle-colored walls and a soft, comfortable floor. The hotel has a trimming salon and a kennel.

Inumo has 70 guest rooms. The rate per night is about ¥50,000, which includes an “accommodation fee” for the guest’s dog. Up to two dogs can stay in a room.

Hotels with a large dog park in central Tokyo are rare, and an inumo spokesperson said the number of guests is growing by word of mouth.

“I enjoyed walking around Tokyo Tower in the morning,” said a 59-year-old office worker from Hachioji, Tokyo, who stayed overnight at the hotel.

Hotel occupancy plummeted during the pandemic. According to the Japan Tourism Agency, an aggregate 317.77 million people stayed at hotels or inns in 2021, half the number in pre-pandemic 2019. The rush to build hotels in anticipation of increasing numbers of foreign visitors to Japan also spurred price competition.

Hotel specializing in guests’ interests cropped up amid these circumstances.

In 2020, Hoshino Resorts Inc. opened BEB5 Tsuchiura, a bicyclist-focused resort in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The resort is connected directly to JR Tsuchiura Station and boasts convenient access to nearby areas. BEB5 guests can enjoy popular cycling routes such as Mt. Tsukuba and Kasumigaura. They are also able to bring their bike into their room and even share the bed in bedsheets made of special materials. The rate for one room with two occupants starts at ¥13,000 per night.

Theater 1, located in the village of Hinohara, Tokyo, features a sort of home movie theater where guests can spend the night. Surrounded by the lush nature of the mountains, visitors can watch movies on a large 100-inch screen inside a well-furnished cabin. The facilities with their rather unique features are limited to one group per day.

In December last year, Tokyo-based business hotel chain Solare Hotels & Resorts opened Lamp Light Books Hotel Fukuoka, a hotel which comes with its own 24-hour bookstore, in Fukuoka City.

Guests can check out or buy any book they like from about 4,000 books in the store and read in their rooms. This is the third bookstore hotel run by the company, which has also opened facilities in Nagoya and Sapporo.

“Hotels that cater to guests’ interests and preferences are more likely to satisfy them,” said Fumiko Watanabe, an associate senior researcher at NLI Research Institute who is well-versed in the hotel industry.

These types of hotels are expected to attract foreign visitors looking for a unique experience now that COVID-19 border control measures have significantly eased.