The Hilton Osaka is one of longest established global brand hotels in Japan’s second biggest city. It caters for the needs of business and tourism travellers alike from the city centre. BTN met up with Ms. Ai Reynolds of the Hilton Osaka to find out about the changing face of the global business and tourism market in Japan, and the hotel’s unique approach to hospitality.
BTN: How long have you worked in your role at Hilton Osaka?
AR: I’ve been here since April 2006, my title is the Marketing Communications Manager.
BTN: What is Hilton Osaka’s approach to the business tourism market?
AR: Hilton Osaka is one of the leading hotels for business people travelling to Osaka. We have won Japan’s “Leading Business Hotel” at the World Travel Awards several times in the past, because of our great location, one of the best locations for a hotel in town.
Umeda is the hub of everywhere in Osaka, and actually Kobe and Kyoto too. Business travellers are our regular guests, they represent one the most important factors of Hilton Osaka’s approach to hospitality, especially during the week when the majority of guests staying in the hotel are here for business reasons. We have nine conference and banquet rooms of various sizes, our biggest can accommodate up to 1,000 people. We are very well equipped.
BTN: What plans does Hilton Osaka, as part of the Hilton brand, have for future development?
AR: With more and more guests from neighbouring countries, like China, Taiwan and also Korea, Asia is definitely an emphasis right now. We have some Chinese speaking staff that deal directly with local agencies, keeping our ties strong with these sectors, but we need to expand a little bit more in these areas, both in business and tourism.
BTN: So which growing markets in business and leisure tourism are specifically important?
AR: Because of new VISA regulations in China more and more Chinese people, with very different incomes, are able to travel freely. The hotel industry in general in Osaka are benefiting from these new private and individual markets. Where we are right now, in the commercial district, is the North side of Osaka, what we have seen is more Chinese people travelling to Namba, on the South side of Osaka, because of its very centralised, local reputation. If anybody asks what the typical image of Osaka is then it tends to be more the South area. So a lot of hotels in that area are really focussing on attracting Chinese guests by having trilingual hotel brochures, or develop closer connections to Chinese agencies. This is definitely an area that we hope to get into and expand our business approach towards.
BTN: How does that relate to Japan’s approach to tourism in general?
AR: As you may know Japan created The Ministry of Tourism just last year, setting out much clearer targets for Japan as a whole. We work with the Osaka Convention Center, that has a brochure in many different languages, including several different Chinese and Korean languages. It means that travellers looking for information about Osaka have a strong resource. It gives tourism in Osaka a strong foundation on which to work, but we feel that as a destination Osaka is often over subscribed, with several new large hotels coming here in the next few years. In many ways Osaka hotels have to take a very local and individual approach to catering for their market.
BTN: On the subject of connections within the industry, could you tell us a little about the hotels, travel agencies and industry hubs you work with?
AR: Of course we are part of The Hilton Group, so we have many strong connections with other hotels in the brand, including Conrad Tokyo. Not just domestically, but internationally we are one of the biggest hotel chains. We work closely with some of the major travel agencies in Japan, including JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) and KNT (Kintetsu International).
BTN: Finally, Japan has a reputation as a unique country and travel destination. Which elements of the Japanese spirit does Hilton Osaka embody?
AR: We have been here for 23 years, we were the first foreign operative hotel to open in Osaka. Everyone in Osaka knows Hilton Osaka. It has allowed us to develop a distinctly Japanese style. It is in the Japanese nature to want to host guests, both on an individual level, but also if you go to someone’s home in Japan you are very welcome as a guest.
The Japanese know how to treat guests, they naturally know how to welcome guests and customers. Our service level reflects this, and is throughout at a very high standard compared to the level of our global competitors. Japan is known as a real service country, people return here because they know that anywhere they go, either a hotel, shop or restaurant, polite service is normal rather than merely expected.
Our Japanese guests know that they will receive very high standard service in our hotel, from our staff who are themselves mainly Japanese. We want to entertain our guests, to allow them to have the best time. It is natural for our employees to feel the same way. It is also important for us to bring out the local spirit of Osaka. This city is different from Tokyo, from Kyoto and Nagoya. Osaka people are known for their warmth, and this is something we know our guests will feel from our Osaka staff.