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No Check-in Counter Defines Luxury as Andaz Opens in Tokyo

Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills
A guest room is seen at the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills hotel, operated by Hyatt Hotels Corp., in Mori Building Co.'s Toranomon Hills during a media preview in Tokyo. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Hyatt Hotels Corp., started by the Pritzker family, is opening its first hotel under the boutique Andaz brand in Tokyo to tap an increase in tourism.

Andaz Tokyo, on top of Mori Building Co.’s 52-story Toranomon Hills complex, which opens today in an area once frequented by geishas and samurais, features the city’s highest bar and no check-in counter.

Inbound and domestic tourism numbers are being boosted by an improvement in the business and economic environment amid a push to end a ban on casinos in the country and preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games. Occupancy rates for city hotels across Japan rose for a second year to 75 percent in 2013, while Japanese style inns known as ryokans declined to 33 percent, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

“There is a shortage of luxury hotel rooms in Tokyo,” said Yoji Otani, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in the city. “This market is going to grow as inbound tourism increases further.”

Inbound tourism in April rose to a record high, gaining 33 percent to 1.2 million, after breaking the record in March, according to an estimate by the Japan National Tourism Organization. The number of domestic travelers who stayed overnight rose 5.9 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, government data show.

‘More Attractive’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced strategic zones, including regions around Tokyo, that will offer lower corporate taxes and looser building restrictions to lure investment.

“Tokyo is becoming more and more attractive as a place to locate your business,” Hyatt Chief Executive Officer Mark Hoplamazian said in an interview in Tokyo on June 9. “Residential demand is increasing. The incident of people looking for a place to own has increased. That all suggest to me that things are going to continue to improve.”

Toranomon Hills, in Toranomon, is Tokyo’s second-tallest building. Mori Building, Japan’s biggest closely held developer, owns the 164-room hotel, which is managed by Chicago-based Hyatt under the Andaz brand.

The hotel’s lobby is on the 51st floor, and the design incorporates natural materials and textures like washi paper and wood, reflecting a Japanese aesthetic.

“We are trying to keep away from being precise and perfect, by making it authentic and real, more casual and not scripted in anyway,” Hoplamazian, who is also Hyatt president, said.

‘Personal Style’

Andaz, which means “personal style” in Hindi, is Hyatt’s ninth hotel in Japan and joins other brands in the stable, including Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt. Andaz Tokyo is Hyatt’s 12th hotel under the brand.

Consumption by inbound tourists rose 31 percent in 2013 to 1.4 trillion yen, while spending by domestic travelers gained 4 percent to 20.6 trillion yen, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. Tokyo hotels had an occupancy rate of 83 percent during the July to September period last year, according to the agency.

Toranomon, which means tiger’s gate in Japanese, was named after an old gate that once guarded the neighborhood, housing samurai houses during the Edo period from 1603 to 1867, according to Mori Building’s website. The area is now vying with the city’s main business districts of Otemachi and Marunouchi.

Luxury Experience

Before the World War II, the streets were filled with restaurants where geishas played shamisen, a three-string musical instrument, and sang to their clients, Mori Building said on its website, citing Masafumi Aoki, a resident who has lived in the area since the 1930s.

Mori Building said on June 4 it plans to develop with partners about 10 projects in Minato ward where Toranomon is located with an estimated cost of 1 trillion yen.

Andaz Tokyo wants to redefine luxury accommodation for travelers by doing away with check-in counters that divide customers and hotel staff, Hoplamazian said. Guests are instead checked in in a lounge on a computerized tablet, he said.

“That’s how more and more people define luxury, which is can I actually feel fulfilled in a natural way as opposed to having a master-servant kind of relationship,” Hoplamazian said. “That’s really a thing of the past for many, many travelers.”

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