Virtual opening not the same as being there, but…
Virtual opening not the same as being there, but…
13 JULY 2020 7:44 AM

I attended my first-ever virtual hotel opening, and it was full of eels, whisky, cherry blossom and bullet trains.

Last Thursday I attended my first virtual hotel opening.

I was intrigued to see how this would transpire in this era of COVID-19, Microsoft Teams and Zoom mania, and I must say it was fun to be part of.

How many of these a person could go through is up for debate, so with that in mind, the Fujisan Mishima Tokyu Hotel, part off Japanese hotel firm Tokyu Hotels, should be credited with first-mover advantage.

The 195-room hotel in the city of Mishima opened on 30 June. The hotel is in Shizuoka prefecture, which contains Mount Fuji, approximately a 1.5-hour drive from the hotel. The property is on the bullet-train network one hour from Tokyo.

It is being claimed that this is first hotel to open virtually internationally, so I claim some of that first-mover kudos myself.

The virtual tour of prefecture and hotel was aimed at everyone in the industry, but I did ask those pithy questions hotel-industry journalists are known for, and there was management from Tokyu Hotels, which has 47 assets in Japan, on hand to answer them.

Kenji Itakura, deputy manager at the firm, told me another hotel was opened on the same day in Yokohama, and there are plans for opening two more, one in Kyoto and the other in Tokyo.

He added that the target audience was leisure travelers, and marketing was to be aimed at Europeans.

Approximately 2.3 million visitors come annually to the prefecture, 17,000 of which are from the United Kingdom, a number we were told that has sharply increased of late.

As you can envision, during the hour of the virtual opening, I really did not hold back from asking the questions that matter to you.

Actually, my idea was to see if I would be able to handle more than one of these 60-minute adventures.

Yes, if the next one was in, say, Myanmar or Mauretania, but would I go to another three in Mishima? Possibly not.

Representative from tourism destination management firms and the Japanese National Tourism Office gave us tours of Japan and the prefecture itself, which I might not have endured to the end if I had not found out across regular points throughout that the writer Yukio Mishima, the one who committed suicide by hara-kiri (this point was not made in the tour), took his name from the city, rather than that just being his name; that the country has 6,582 islands; that the small details that herald the changing of the seasons is called “fuubutsushi” in Japanese, and that in the country 88% of lost mobile phones and 80% of lost wallets are returned.

Eels in barbecue sauce and home-made whisky are among the culinary delights.

Soon we moved to touring the hotel. It was explained that Japan is well-prepared for this new era in travel as its citizens have been wearing masks in public for decades and that polite gestures such as removing shoes and bowing were rooted in the idea of not transmitting germs.

The tour started by us whizzing through Japan on a bullet train to Mishima station, which is shaped like Mount Fuji, and then through the city’s streets.

I took off my slippers behind my desk in my spare room as we virtually entered the lobby and reception. Farther up we came across indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs with Mount Fuji views, restaurant seats with the same and a décor of grey (representing the lava of Mount Fuji), pink (cherry blossom) and green (Mishima’s leafy surroundings).

An adventure of sorts, and the nearest I am coming to traveling internationally at the moment, so I happily took the diversion.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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