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Japanese theme parks intensify competition with luxury hotels

June 15, 2008

Universal Studios Japan (USJ), the movie-based theme park in Osaka in western Japan, has announced plans for the development and refurnishing of five hotels in the surrounding area. Keihan Hotel will acquire and remodel an existing hotel which will go along with the development of a new hotel in the same area. And by July 2009 American chain Best Western will also begin construction. These developments are expected to intensify the competition between USJ in Osaka and Tokyo Disneyland, which similarly has already developed hotels nearby.

On May 25 Keiha Hotels opened their Universal Towers hotel, which will be operated along with the already existing Universal City Hotel. In March the Nikko Bayside Osaka hotel was closed, with the management moving over to the new Universal Towers hotel.

However, the Best Western Premier Osaka Bay hotel is already under construction nearby with 190 guest rooms, dinning and other commercial facilities, and a fitness center. While Best Western has over 4000 hotels in 80 counties, the USJ hotel will be only the second hotel built in Japan under the high-end "Premier" brand name. The hotel's management commented their plan is to attract international guests with the high-end name.

Along with the two Keihan hotels and the Best Western hotel, another popular western Japan brand has two of their own hotels in the area. Kintestu has entered the competition by remodeling their Universal City and Universal Port hotels in the area, beginning last year.

In total there are now five official USJ hotels either already built or in the works. Plans are underway to construct more hotels and apartments in the area following the demolition of old factories which once occupied the former industrial location.

The background for this growth in development is USJ's projections for visitor numbers, which are expected to reach almost 9 million people from 2007-2009. In much the same way Tokyo Disneyland has expanded their accommodation facilities, which includes the July 2008 opening of the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Visitor numbers are expected to increase by 1.5 times more than the previous five years. The key to maintaining these developments seems to be in focusing on providing convenient and comfortable accommodation for those with the most time and money to spend. In this case the management of the hotels have expressed the importance of focusing in particular on the elderly and foreign tourists.

June 13, 2008 SankeiShimbun

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