Westin feels it’s perfectly positioned to pamper, keep ahead of rivals

by Mayumi Koyama

Staff Writer

The Westin Tokyo is currently enjoying brisk sales and expects business to continue to thrive as consumers presently have a propensity to spend money on luxurious food and accommodations, the hotel’s general manager said recently.

“I believe consumers are showing a more positive attitude toward spending money as they want satisfying experiences, rather than giving into depressing news all the time,” Dietmar Kielnhofer said.

The relatively weak yen and Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics also helped brighten consumer sentiment, prompting The Westin Hotel to have a fantastic year in 2013, he said.

Six years from now is a long time, but I hope the positive atmosphere will continue until at least 2020,” Kielnhofer said.

Kielnhofer has been the general manager since September 2011, six months after the tragic March 11 disaster, and has witnessed the worst of time not only for the hotel industry, but for all of Japan.

Although the disaster influenced both business and consumer sentiment, according to Kielnhofer, things started to change in the second half of 2012 as Shinzo Abe became the prime minister that December and his new economic measures, or “Abenomics,” lifted consumer sentiment.

Tokyo is an exciting city for a hotel veteran like Kielnhofer. Since the 1990s, a time when Tokyo was developing as one of the world’s biggest international economic and cultural hubs, many global luxury inns opened in the capital. The city is now one of the most competitive battlegrounds in the hotel industry.

Among those hotels, The Westin Tokyo in Ebisu, established in 1994, has cemented itself as one of the longest-reigning luxury hotels. It is said to be one of the top three, along with the Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so, which is now called the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. This year, The Westin Tokyo celebrates its 20th anniversary.

In the early 1990s, there were only handful of major luxury hotels in Tokyo and the Westin enjoyed a strong leadership position in the market. Nowadays, the hotel is at the center of an intensely competitive market as more and more rivals open.

Kielnhofer maintains a positive outlook and has confidence in the hotel’s history and its proven performance.

“For sure, it’s very competitive, but competition is good for customers who can enjoy many opportunities to compare hotels; it gives choices to consumers. It’s also a great chance for hotels to polish the services they provide,” Kielnhofer said.

Although the hotel is a classic European design, it has been heavily praised for its Japanese-style hospitality, as well as its internationally progressive services. Since refined Japanese customers look for quality service, according to Kielnhofer, the way for hotels to survive in the nation’s hospitality industry is to offer high levels of personalized service.

“At this point, we have a 20-year history of commitment to excellent service and although we’ve proven ourselves year in and year out, we need to perform at our peak every single day like an Olympic athlete. Our long-term commitment to quality service can be seen in our many loyal customers who have returned again and again over the 20 years,” Kielnhofer said.

Location is also an advantage for The Westin Tokyo. While other foreign hotels established themselves in the traditional business areas, including central Tokyo, Shinjuku and Ginza, The Westin Tokyo chose Ebisu, which although underdeveloped at the time, was an area for which Sapporo Holdings Ltd. had big plans. In 1991, to better utilize the area, Sapporo started work on Ebisu Garden Place and in an effort to provide people with rest and relaxation services, The Westin Tokyo joined the project. The hotel debuted in October 1994 as a luxurious lifestyle oasis.

“Unlike other areas filled with concrete and high-rise buildings, Ebisu is a manicured green and quiet area where people can relax in a residential atmosphere, despite its central downtown location,” Kielnhofer said. Just last year, the hotel opened a garden space called the Westin Garden, where people can enjoy the four seasons enveloped by the tranquil and refreshing scent of the woods. “People can walk around with children or pets without any constraints in this area.”

The remarkable transportation system of Tokyo also helps the hotel’s accessibility. Currently, three train lines run through Ebisu Station, allowing people to easily and quickly travel to a multitude of destinations unburdened by traffic.

Throughout this year, in celebration of its anniversary, the hotel will hold many special events focusing on various cultural highlights, such as food, music, art and literature. For example, in collaboration with Westin hotels around the world, the hotel’s international buffet restaurant, The Terrace, will invite guest chefs and offer a national signature dish each month: France for March and Germany for April. Also, at French restaurant Victor’s, champagne dinners will be held every month featuring 12 different brands, allowing guests to enjoy exclusive champagne alongside authentic French dishes. Mai, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, will offer a unique opportunity to experience the finest sake from select prefectures with “kaiseki” multi-course dinners.

The hotel is also offering a unique anniversary wedding package. Taking an advantage of its location and stand-alone property, the hotel can offer a horse-drawn carriage ride around Ebisu to newlywed couples. Unlike other modern hotels occupying only a few floors of a building standing in a crowded downtown area, couples can enjoy their special day basking in an open European atmosphere.