Luxury hotels fill gap in Kyoto’s high-end hospitality sector

With domestic tourism recovering, luxury hoteliers are focusing their attention on the historic city of Kyoto.

In September, ROKU Kyoto opened in the city’s Takagamine district in the north, and just down the street from Aman Kyoto. This is Hilton LXR Hotels & Resorts’ first property in Asia and Hilton’s first property in Kyoto. A deluxe room goes for over 100,000 Yen (US$880) a night. An outdoor heated pool brings in natural spring water, allowing it to be enjoyed by guests all year round. 

In October, Shinsho-an, a boutique hotel with just four suites, opened up in Okazaki, across from the KYOCERA Museum of Art and Kyoto City Zoo. The traditional Sukiya-style features interiors with red pine and cedar to create a ryokan-style atmosphere. Rooms go for as much as 220,000 Yen (US$1,940) a night.

In January 2022, the 60-room Hotel Okura Kyoto Okazaki Bettei will open along the street from Heian Shrine. The standard room size is 40 sqm, and nightly rates will start from around 48,000 Yen (US$420).

IHG Hotels & Resorts is opening the 86-room Regent Kyoto in 2024 on the site of the former Tsuruya Restaurant near Okazaki Shrine.

The Imperial Hotel will start construction on a luxury hotel in the Gion district next year, with the hotel to open in 2026. There will be around 60 guest rooms, along with a restaurant, bar, spa, pool, and gym. This will be the fourth Imperial Hotel to open in Japan and the first since 1996.

The 81-room Six Senses Kyoto is planned to open in 2024. This will be the first Six Senses to open in Japan. The site is in Higashiyama and across the street from the Four Seasons. A Banyan Tree hotel is also planned for Higashiyama with the opening also tentatively scheduled for 2024.

In the five years since 2014, hotel licenses in Kyoto city have risen three-fold. Although the market appeared to reach saturation prior to the pandemic, Timothy Soper, Hilton’s Vice President of Operations for Japan, Korea, and Micronesia, remains bullish on Kyoto’s potential, with luxury hotel rooms still in short supply. Although inbound tourism has been on hold since 2020, the country’s foreign tourist market is expected to recover faster than other countries once the pandemic is under control.

Existing hotels are also upping their game by expanding their service offerings and refurbishing their rooms. 

The domestic tourism market is already recovering, with hordes of tourists descending on the city to view the fall colors. Using data from mobile phone networks, the Sankei Shimbun reported that crowd numbers in Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji were up 144.6% on the last weekend of November, compared to the last weekend of October, and up 150.6% in Arashiyama. Numbers were even up from the same time last year, with Arashiyama seeing a 50.2% increase in crowds from the same time in 2020.

The Kyoto Shimbun, November 24, 2021.
The Sankei Shimbun, November 29, 2021.

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