As the Friday opening of the 2002 FIFA World Cup approaches, hoteliers in and around Tokyo are making last-minute efforts to get their slice of the hoopla that will carry on through the next month.
Some major hotels in Tokyo are looking to secure big profits in June with few vacancies thanks to a huge number of visitors coming for the event cohosted by Japan and South Korea.
However, some other hotels, particularly in Yokohama, where the final and three first-round matches will be held, have been struggling to make up for massive cancellations of bookings for June — many of which came just a month ago by a British firm that had booked large blocks of rooms for the event but saw its customers opting instead to relocate to South Korea.
Some hotels hit with cancellations have successfully minimized the damage through ad campaigns, sales promotions and hard work over the past weeks.
The Yokohama Grand Inter-Continental Hotel will provide a special plan in June called “The Eleven,” which offers discount rates starting at 11,000 yen overnight per person for double or triple “superior” rooms. The normal double-occupancy room rate is 38,000 yen.
The hotel’s new Sports Bar will be open through July 7.
Staff sport soccer outfits to create a World Cup atmosphere. Decorated with replicas of the Japanese national team’s uniforms and an official World Cup ball, the bar offers original cocktails associated with sports as well as Internet access so visitors can keep up with breaking soccer news.
The hotel has sent its sales staff to client firms and individual customers to inform them of guest rooms available during the World Cup, while also utilizing the Internet to attract more people, said Masumi Inoue, a public relations officer at the hotel.
“By around the Golden Week holidays in May, we were hit by cancellations of 45 percent of our room reservations for June,” Inoue said. “Thanks to the staff’s efforts, we’re likely to make the occupancy rate around 85 percent, which is slightly better than an average year.
“In the business world, things do not always go as we plan, particularly when it comes to dealing with global events like the World Cup.”
Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers has also been offering, for 15 specific days between May 19 and June 20, specially priced plans. Ten twin rooms, which usually cost 33,000 yen, are available for 8,000 yen per person for a double room and 6,500 yen per person for a triple room.
According to hoteliers, the massive cancellation of bookings in Yokohama and some other cities hosting the World Cup games came from Byrom Consultants Ltd., a U.K. liability firm engaged in coordinating accommodations for the 2002 World Cup as the FIFA World Cup Accommodation Bureau.
The hoteliers said the cancellations came after many groups of visitors, including members of the media, under contracts with Byrom decided to make their bases in South Korea, which boasts cheaper goods and services and a recently refurbished airport near Seoul, they said.
In Yokohama alone, some 60,000 rooms had been booked by Byrom for June. Now only about 20,000 are still booked; the rest were canceled as of the Golden Week holidays, according to an official of a major hotel in Yokohama.
The remaining reservations are concentrated mostly around the days when games will be played in Yokohama, the official said last week on condition of anonymity.
“About 80 percent of the bookings we had were canceled from March through April,” the official said, adding that no cancellation fee was paid because it was more than a month before the booked dates.
“Business has already been badly damaged, and there won’t be so much of an economic boom as has been hyped by the media and some business quarters.”
In Tokyo, the situation appears rosier.
“We’re expecting our three hotels — Takanawa Prince Hotel, New Takanawa Prince Hotel and Takanawa Prince Hotel Sakura Tower — to be 85 percent full on average through June, about 10 percentage points better than an average year,” said Yuriko Kawashima, a public relations official for Takanawa Prince Hotel.
Better business prospects are attributed to the Sakura Tower being a licensed hotel under the auspices of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which organizes the games, with many FIFA officials and its sponsor companies planning to stay there.
An official from another major Tokyo hotel also welcomed the event, though he asked that he and his hotel not be named. Guests are scheduled to fill up an average 84.7 percent of the hotel’s rooms through June — up 11 percentage points over an average year.
“We are sorry to hear about those massive cancellations of bookings at hotels in Yokohama and some other cities hosting the World Cup,” the official said.
“But as far as hotels in Tokyo are concerned, the World Cup seems likely to bring a windfall in June.”
During the World Cup, 2.26 million visitors from in and outside Japan will be put up at accommodations facilities nationwide, according to a forecast issued last month by the Land, Transport and Infrastructure Ministry.
More than 3 million people are expected to travel long-distance through the country during the tournament, it said.
The ripple economic effect brought on by the massive influx of visitors will amount to some 369 billion yen, according to Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc.
Direct expenditures for the event will reach 233 billion yen, with expenses for accommodations accounting for 47 billion yen and that for transportation 46 billion yen, the think tank said.
Local hotel and transport businesses have expressed mixed feelings about the event — half eagerly anticipating the boom in the number of travelers and half having no idea about how to cope with the unpredictable flows of visitors.
Nikko Salomon Smith Barney has meanwhile come up with a gloomy outlook.
In its annual forecast report, titled “The Japanese Surprises for 2002,” released in late January, the brokerage predicted: “The World Cup descends into farce and off-pitch hooliganism. . . . Economic benefits are dismally small.”
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