Yokohama’s big touchdown

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup headed for Japan, host city Yokohama is sprucing up for its time in the spotlight with the country’s biggest hotel, along with other developments, in the pipeline.

Yokohama readies for its big moment in the international spotlight when major sporting events arrive on its shores

Thirty-seven floors above street level, the construction cranes are in constant motion as the largest hotel in Japan slowly takes shape.

Yokohama readies for its big moment in the international spotlight when major sporting events arrive on its shores

The US$140 million Apa Hotel & Resort Yokohama Bay Tower will have 2,400 guestrooms across more than 58,000m2 of floor space when it opens in 2019.

This comes at a fortuitous time, coinciding with Yokohama hosting matches in the Rugby World Cup, including the final. Moreover, the hotel is in proximity of Tokyo, which will host the Olympic Games in the summer of 2020.

Some 70,000 people will be in the International Stadium Yokohama for the final of the Rugby World Cup, according to Seiichi Hata, manager of the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau’s MICE team.

He further shared that Yokohama will host seven Rugby World Cup Games games, and many other events will take place throughout the city during the tournament.  “We anticipate a real bustle around the city,” he remarked.

“This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of Yokohama, particularly among strong rugby-playing countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and some European nations.

“We want to keep that going the following year so we get the ripple effect from the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “We are confident we can do that because a number of the events – such as soccer and baseball – are being held here.”

Yokohama is already an appealing destination for visitors to Japan, thanks to historic sites that arguably have been better preserved than elsewhere in Japan, the Chinatown district, and its strong air, sea, road and rail links with the rest of the country and abroad.

Potentially enhancing its visitor appeal are new developments in the pipeline.
No fewer than 14 new hotels are due to be completed by 2020, delivering an additional 4,500 rooms. Besides the Apa property, the pipeline includes the first Hyatt Regency in the city, with 315 rooms close to the Yamashita Park waterfront district.

Plans are also under way for a new passenger ferry terminal – capable of accommodating the largest ships operated by international cruise lines – and a five-storey complex in the Minato Mirai district that will include a 20,000-seat music venue, a 21-storey hotel, exhibition spaces and offices.

At the InterContinental Yokohama Grand Hotel, Akira Honjo, general manager said inbound visitors are increasing, with foreign guests accounting for around 40 per cent of the total. Americans represent the largest single nationality, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean visitors, although the majority remain short-stay domestic visitors from Tokyo and other neighbouring regions.

He anticipates that the global sporting events scheduled for Japan over the next couple of years will serve to raise the profile of Yokohama as a destination and boost the city’s tourism business.

“There are high expectations for the Rugby World Cup, and the Olympics, and we want to use these opportunities to demonstrate Japanese hospitality to the rest of the world,” Honjo said.

Hideaki Furusawa, manager of global sales for the Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers, said his property has already been accepting reservations for the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics, although overall figures for arrivals so far this year have been slightly down on the same period last year.

“The government has set a target of 40 million foreign visitors in the year 2020, and we seem to be on target for that,” he said.

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