The 120-year-old Westin Miyako is one of Kyoto’s oldest and best loved hotels. As Japan welcomes a new government and Prime Minister to power, BTN’s Daniel Rourke spoke to Junko Funakoshi, Westin Miyako’s Manager of Advertising and Public Relations, about growing markets and changing ideas in Kyoto and Japan.
BTN: How long have you worked in your role at The Westin Miyako, Kyoto?
JF: Six years. Before that I worked with Sheraton, one of our sister hotels.
BTN: How important is the business tourism market to The Westin Miyako?
JF: Kyoto is a major city for tourism and we believe that we play a very important role as a key hotel here. Certainly, we want all our guests, tourists and businesses to enjoy their stay with us. As well as business tourists from abroad, Westin Miyako caters for a local, and often exclusive, business tourists from the Kyoto area. Westin Miyako will celebrate its 120th anniversary in Kyoto next year. Our hotel has a very traditional foundation, based on customers who have appreciated this hotel for many years. These customers are precious to us, and through our communication with them we hope to give new customers a similar exclusive feeling during their stay with us.
BTN: Which new and emerging markets are important for The Westin Miyako?
JF: It is actually very difficult to pinpoint which new markets are especially important for us. For a growing number of Chinese tourists, we hear that Osaka is more popular for them to shop in Kansai area. Since Kyoto is the place they visit after Osaka, we expect them to come over to have a great time in Kyoto.
We believe that Kyoto has a lot to offer, especially its wealth of Japanese cultural experiences - not just temples and shrines but also beautiful nature and four distinctive seasons. Nowadays, it has been easier for tourists to experience Japanese traditions such as the Tea Ceremony and Zen Buddhist practising in various places. Attracting these tourists to stay in Kyoto is key for us right now. Westin Miyako’s long history in Kyoto means that these things are very important for us too.
BTN: Could you tell us how you approach the new and growing markets you serve?
JF: We aim to cater for business and leisure tourists who have very different needs and expectations. One of the approach ways is the internet. By using the web, we can provide latest information and also through our strong connections with tourist agencies, we can connect the unique services we offer directly to the right customer.
For instance, tourists visiting Kyoto who are looking for sports leisure in Kyoto can now take part in our jogging programme, which helps them exercise whilst they visit the many temples and historical monuments of the city. Kyoto as a city has a lot of potential for all kinds of travellers, including sports, business and art tourists. The Westin Miyako brings travellers closer to the part of Kyoto that is right for them, whether it is looking for antiques, experiencing ancient Japanese traditions or eating some of the best food in Japan.
BTN: Kyoto represents the very essence of the Japanese spirit. What is Westin Miyako most proud of?
JF: Westin Miyako is very proud of its 120-year foundation in Kyoto. People feel a love for hotel that has stayed with them for a long time. Since the former Miyako Hotel became the Westin Miyako in 2002, their connections with The Westin Miyako haven’t been changed and go back through the generations. That’s what we are very proud of and we believe that is the tribute being evolved all the time in a long history.
BTN: Finally, Japan’s change of government signifies many changes for the country as a business centre and tourism destination. What are you looking forward to in the future?
JF: When something changes, there will always be bad as well as good things that come of it. However, we expect good things to happen, like people having more extra time to enjoy themselves, to spend their time mentally relaxing on their holidays. We hope that people will be able to express their feelings, and find time to feel good.