SEOUL – Major Japanese hotel chain operator Fujita Kanko Inc. opened its first overseas hotel in Seoul on Friday in a bid to capture demand from the growing number of Japanese travelers to South Korea amid easing geopolitical tensions on the peninsula.
Hotel Gracery Seoul, developed with the intent of furthering medium-term business growth, opened in the Gangbuk area — close to the busy sightseeing and shopping districts of Myeong-dong and Namdaemun in order to attract leisure tourists.
The 335-room hotel offers room rates starting from 154,000 won ($139) and is staffed with some Japanese-speaking employees, the Tokyo-based hotel chain operator said.
The number of Japanese visitors to the country in the January-July period rose 20.2 percent from a year earlier to top 1.5 million, making them the second-largest group of foreign travelers after Chinese, according to the government-backed Korea Tourism Organization.
With tensions on the peninsula reducing after the historic summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders in mid-June, travelers from Japan surged 40.2 percent that month from a year before to 235,293 — buoyed by a 50.6 percent jump in the number of female visitors.
Akira Segawa, president of Fujita Kanko, said at a hotel opening event in Seoul on Wednesday that he expects Japanese travelers to account for 60 percent of the new hotel’s clientele.
Other Japanese firms have already opened operations in the South Korean capital.
Fukuoka-based Nishi Nippon Railroad Co. opened its first overseas hotel in 2015 in the Gangbuk area on the northern bank of the Han River running through Seoul.
Sotetsu Holdings Inc., a Yokohama-based railway firm, entered the South Korean market this year, opening its first overseas hotel in Myeong-dong in February and another in Dongdaemun in May.
Kuretakeso Co., a hotel operator in Shizuoka Prefecture, opened its first hotel in the neighboring country in June as part of its aggressive expansion in Asia, where it has also moved into Vietnam, Indonesia and other markets.
Despite intensifying competition among fellow rivals in the city, Segawa said, “We would like to contribute to drawing customers into the area as a whole.”
Fujita Kanko has established local units and representative offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai and Taipei since 2010 in preparation for the further expansion of its hotel network outside its home market.
In 2021, the company will open Hotel Gracery in Taipei, its second overseas hotel after the one in Seoul.