Report from Japan’s First Luxury Travel Forum
Story and photos by Denise Mattia
VIP travel buyers from Australia, China, Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Russia and the U.S. participated in the First Annual Japan Luxury Travel Forum (JLTF). The Forum’s mission, which was sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry, and supported by members of the Japanese luxury travel industry specializing in inbound travel, was to increase awareness of Japan as a destination for international luxury travelers. In addition to travel with Japan Air Lines (JAL), JLTF provided luxury accommodations in Tokyo, appointments with 24 exhibitors in Shinagawa, Tokyo’s intercity, and evening programs.
The site,www.jltf.jp, contains information regarding participating tour operators and a list of diverse accommodations to help agents fulfill luxury clients’ needs.
Arriving in Tokyo, Tetsuya Furukawa, Director of Sales at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, conducted a site inspection of the well-appointed areas and rooms. The boutique hotel, located in the heart of the finance and government districts, has business, fitness and spa centers (the spa has a lounge, shower, sauna and steam room) open 24/7–services that are in great demand by busy travelers. www.fourseasons.com/marunouchi
Participants departed Tokyo the following day for a two-day excursion to Kanazawa, organized by the tour group, The Real Japan (www.real-japan.com), in conjunction with the Ryokan Collection (www.ryokancollection.com).
Highlights of the trip included visits to the former Nakamura residence and the 21st Century Contemporary Museum and the exceptional Kaga cuisine at Otome Zushi. Later, at the traditional Ryotei, the Tsubajin, geisha provided service and musical entertainment during an extravagant welcome dinner party hosted by Kanazawa City officials.
The elegant Kayotei Inn, a traditional Ryokan in Ishikawa, is under the personal supervision of Masanori Kamiguchi, President, Jiro Takeuchi, General Manager and an attentive staff. The Inn boasts an outdoor private hot spring tub and a segregated hot spring pool for guests, and, after a stay at a Ryokan Collection property, clients will appreciate the quality and comfort a traditional Japanese accommodation affords.
Returning to the skyscrapers of Tokyo, the group was transferred to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where Bjorn Courage, Director of Sales and Marketing and Rooms Sales Manager, Tsuyoshi Furuta, conducted the site inspection. One is immediately impressed with the exquisite design elements and spectacular views in all the rooms and restaurants, which are located on the uppermost floors of the 38-story Nibonbashi Mitsui Tower. The hotel has earned top ratings in Zagat’s 2007-2008 Survey. “Delightful Japan” packages and internet rates are available. (www.mandarinoriental.co.jp).
To mark the commencement of the JLTF, a symposium was held at the Park Royal Hotel, which has facilities to accommodate large groups for incentives and meetings (www.rph.co.jp). Takeharu Jofuku, Deputy Director and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, made the opening presentation.
Luxury properties in Japan are known for their haute cuisine, artistic aestheticism and exemplary service. These elements are brought together at the Ritz-Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com), Tokyo, where diners can enjoy a Kaiseki dinner prepared in front of them at the Michelin-rated Hinokizaka restaurant, relax or work in elegant rooms on the top floors of the city’s tallest skyscraper with personalized service any time of day or night.
Other properties exhibited at the JLTF site were the Imperial Hotel, the renovation of which is expected to be completed in 2009 (www.imperialhotel.co.jp); The Peninsula Tokyo, which is rated in the highest luxury hotel category in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2009 (www.peninsula.com); the flagship, Hotel Okura Tokyo, which operates hotels around the world and is working to expand mileage programs with airlines, sales and reservation networks (www.orangemarketing.jp); the Starwood Hotels, a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor with the renowned brand of Sheraton and Westin in Tokyo (www.StarwoodHotels.com); and the Hotel New Otani, represented by the Leading Hotels of the World with properties throughout Japan (www.newotani.co.jp). Also renowned for gastronomical achievements are the Relais & Châteaux, which offer cuisine in outstanding properties in Kobe and Hyogo (www.relaischateaux.com).
Hoshinoya Kyoto and Hoshinoya Taketomi will soon be added to the fabulous retreat at the Hoshinoya Hot Springs in Karuizawa (www.hoshinoya.com).
The management of restored townhouses in Kyoto is the specialty of Lori, which also offers, through its Origin Arts Program, workshops with leading Japanese arts masters (www.kyoto-machiya.com), while Kise Bettei is the new, luxurious Western-style hotel and spa in Okinawa (www.kise-bettei.jp). On a large scale, Prince Hotels and Resorts is a major operator in Japan with 40 hotels and Ryokan accommodations, 20 golf courses and nine ski resorts (www.princejapan.com).
Additional premium hospitality, inbound travel and cruise services are available at the Asian Elite Club (www.asianeliteclub.com); Boutique JTB (www.jtbgmt.com); Jetsetter (www.jetsetter.ne.jp); and KNT Kintetsu International (www.knt.co.jp). Quest Seven Co. Ltd. (www.questseven.jp) services Hiroshima and Miyajima, while Authentic Japan specializes in cultures in tour products to outlying regions (www.authentic-japan.jp). All offer commissions. Participants were treated to a Kabuki theatrical production, hosted by the Japanese government — a thrilling end to an informative conference and a great enhancement to a Japanese journey.
Call the Japanese National Tourist Organization, at 212-757-5640 (NYC); 213-623-1952 (LA); www.japantravelinfo.com