Japan hotels continue to cope with disasters’ aftermath

JAPAN Hotels across Japan have reacted with composure in the aftermath of the March earthquake and tsunami, and the related radiation issues from the Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern part of the country. In solidarity with the Japanese people and business communities, the hotel industry has shown admirable commitment to helping those affected by the disaster.

Paid occupancy in Japan was down 21.3% in March and 27.6% in April year over year, while Tokyo and Sendai showed greater falls in occupancy of 33.6% and 36.7% in March, respectively, according to STR Global data. Those numbers do not tell the whole story, however, as many hotels have made themselves available as public shelters to help cope with the influx of displaced people and those seeking to distance themselves from radiation dangers.

The Grand Prince Akasaka, one of Tokyo’s most prestigious addresses, was due to close at the end of March, but has stayed open to offer accommodation to some of the 30,000-plus evacuees from Fukushima prefecture. Solare Hotels & Resorts, which manages hotels in 73 destinations across the country, is offering 10,000 nights free of charge in its Chisun and Loisir-branded hotels. Additionally, many hotels have waived cancellation fees.

Hotels in Sendai—the city nearest the earthquake’s epicenter—along with Sapporo and Tokyo have borne the brunt of the impact of the disaster from a business standpoint. Cities further from the center of the catastrophe were generally impacted less.

Sendai’s RevPAR declined 22.7% in March before increasing by 77.2% in April. Demand is expected to remain firm with the resumption of normal operation of the Tohoku Shinkansen express train helping volunteers, relief and reconstruction teams get to the affected area and, secondly, with insurance companies sending plenty of staff to the area to assess claims.

By comparison, Tokyo has seen occupancy plummet from 83% in March 2010 to 55% in March 2011, as people sought to move away from the threat of radiation exposure. Further south, Osaka saw only a small reduction in occupancy (2.8%), while Kobe actually experienced a rise of 6%, according to STR Global.

STR Global tracks 350 hotels in Japan, representing more than 96,000 guestrooms.