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Japanese hospitality: In a league of is own

Reflecting the deeply ingrained value given to quality and meticulousness in their country, Japanese hotels have satisfied millions of guests with a brand of service not found elsewhere. Underlying that ethos is the idea of omotenashi, which considers hospitality not as a service but as a privilege to be accepted with respect and seriousness.

Two Japanese-owned hotels in Southern California have served as perfect ambassadors for that kind of hospitality.

With InterContinental Los-Angeles Century City President Mari Miyoshi (2nd from right) and General Manager Steve Choe (far right)

The InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles Century City, which was acquired by Sumitomo Realty and Development USA a few years ago, has continues to grow successfully over the years because its staff places service at the heart of everything it does.

“It’s intangible, but it is most important to understand how people will feel with heartfelt service. This is a luxury hotel. People spend a lot of money here and I want to give more through my team. Giving them wow factors and a great experience is my goal,” said InterContinental Los Angeles President Mari Miyoshi.

Another Japanese hotel that has made a huge impact in the United States is Miyako Hybrid Hotel in Torrance. Among the first to secure LEED-NC certification for its Earth-saving efforts, the boutique hotel opened its doors in 2009 and, in a matter of only six years, achieved an average occupancy rate of 90 percent. The hotel is 75 percent made of recyclable materials and implements energy-saving practices in every aspect of operations.

With Miyako Hybrid Hotel General Manager Mark Tanaka (far right) and Director of Sales and Marketing Akira Yuhara (far left)

“In the service industry, people are the most important aspect. We train our staff – all of them – to understand the Japanese culture, like how to arrange things and how to bow to greet guests,” said Miyako Hybrid Hotel Director of Sales and Marketing Akira Yuhara.

In the last five years, Intercontinental has focused on attracting more international business. And by attracting more corporate clients from Asia, South America and the Middle East, the hotel has widened its customer base and demographics. Notwithstanding its commitment to provide Japanese-style service, the hotel has also learned how to accommodate the different cultural preferences of its guests. 

“The ability of our sales managers to immerse in those cultures makes it more genuine and that’s what our customers really care about. It’s not the generic way of delivering something we read on the Internet. But it’s the little nuances and touches that our customers really appreciate. That is where they see the difference in our level of service,” said Intercontinental General Manager Steve Choe.

For Miyako, on the other hand, the situation is a bit different. The Miyako brand is well known all over Japan and among Japanese expatriates. But as its first hotel in Southern California, Miyako needed to invest a lot attention to market its presence in Los Angeles.

“We are exporting Japanese service and bringing a truly Japanese experience to the Southern Californians,” Yuhara said.

Its efforts have paid off. The hotel now enjoys a regular stream of business travelers from Japan, who make up the majority of its customer base. With the impending departure of Toyota’s West Coast headquarters from the city, Miyako is turning to domestic accounts and to companies from other Asian markets. 

Encouraged by the success of this first overseas property, Miyako plans to open hotels in other cities in the United States, like New York and San Francisco.

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