Established as a Japanese ryokan by Kasuke Hoshino in 1914, hotel management company Hoshino Resorts is today led by fourth generation family member, Yoshiharu Hoshino.
A company well regarded for its omotenashi Japanese-style hospitality, Hoshino Resorts expanded rapidly out of Karuizawa since 2001 and now operates 37 facilities both in and outside Japan under four distinct brands: Hoshinoya luxury flagships, Kai hot spring resorts, Risonare resort hotels, and Omo city tourism hotels.
Travel Weekly Asia chats with Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO of Hoshino Resorts.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
I’ve learned that crises, such as the current global pandemic, come on a regular basis, so preparation is key.
In the 30 years that I have been in this business, I have already experienced six such events like the collapse of the bubble economy, the bad debt problem, the Lehman shock, the Great East Japan Earthquake, the nuclear power plant accident, and now the coronavirus.
Each time it is said to be an event that happens once in a hundred years, but in fact, it happens once in five years.
Although demand in the tourism industry remains firm, there is a high risk that demand will cool temporarily. I think our focus on "micro tourism" is something that increases our chances of survival in such a crisis.
Locals are enjoying the tea experience in Shizuoka Prefecture.
How has the Covid-19 impacted Hoshino Resorts and its approach to managing the properties and staff through a pandemic?
Hoshino Resorts have been focusing on promoting new ways of travel and we have been challenged to do even more during this Covid era.
It is important not to be overanxious even if profit decreases by 80% to 90% (which was the actual case back in April and May 2020).
We have made every effort to understand the situation of local creators who are facing challenges due to the virus, and we have begun efforts to contribute [to their welfare].
Micro tourism is a great way of travel that balances the local economy with minimum impact on the spread of the virus.
Micro tourism is short travel to a place that is one to two hours from home by car. We believe that there is always something to discover, whether that is new culinary combinations of local produce, or hands-on experiences of local art whilst staying close to home, where we can feel safe.
For example, Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for its green tea and Kai Enshu creates a stay experience using these teas. As a result, approximately 60% of guests were from the local Chubu area and the overall occupancy rate exceeded 90%.
Getting close to nature with Hoshino’s open top bus.
Another popular experience amongst locals is the open-top bus tour in Aomori Prefecture at our Oirase Keiryu hotel. A double-decker bus with an open-top travels along the mountain streams, where guests can enjoy the 360 degrees panoramic view of nature.
A new experience is the “Okinawa Blue Zone Stay” which is being launched from September 1. Okinawa is one of the five “Blue Zone” areas, selected as a place where many people have a long and healthy lives.
This programme aims to share the secrets behind longevity by incorporating habits practised by those living a long life.
This programme takes advantage of the environment within and near HOSHINOYA Okinawa. Guests can also participate in a Ryukyuan pottery experience in Yomitan Village to connect with the locals of Okinawa.
Sharing the secrets of a long life in Okinawa.
What can visitors to Japan look forward to when international tourism reopens?
I think that the essential parts of the travel market will not change at all. Almost everything will return to pre-coronavirus, so visitors can keep looking forward to discovering and learning about the charms of Japan and its culture.