New Family Travel as Seen by the General Manager of Hoshino Resort Risonare Atami | FRIDAY DIGITAL

New Family Travel as Seen by the General Manager of Hoshino Resort Risonare Atami

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The Corona disaster with no end in sight. Hoshino Resort is continuing to propose new forms of travel by responding flexibly and swiftly in the midst of a tourism industry that has been hit hard by the disaster.

On February 25, Hoshino Resort opened “OMO3 Tokyo Akasaka by Hoshino Resort,” an urban-type tourist hotel in a prime location in Akasaka, Tokyo, attracting attention for its aggressive business development that defies the headwinds, with plans to open nine facilities in Japan and abroad from 2021 to 2022.

One facility that symbolizes the group’s aggressive stance is “Hoshino Resort Risonare Atami.

Hoshino Resort Risonare Atami is located on a hill about 20 minutes by car from JR Atami Station. From the entrance, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and Atami Bay, famous for its fireworks display.

In 2020, the buffet was temporarily closed due to the first declaration of a state of emergency, but it was renewed in just 40 days. The buffet was renamed the “New Normal Buffet” and reopened with the highest level of infection control measures.

We spoke with Yuko Fukui, general manager of the facility, about the changes in services at Corona Disaster. (All figures in parentheses are from Ms. Fukui.)

Employees Awakened by Explanation of “Probability of Bankruptcy

Around April of 2020, when the first emergency declaration was issued, we lost roughly 80% of our customers compared to the previous year. Of course, this is a drop we have never seen before.

What is going to happen now, and will things get worse? I have no idea. I think that was the feeling of many employees, not just me.

At that time, Yoshiharu Hoshino, the president of the company, announced the “probability of bankruptcy” within the company.

Bankruptcy probability. This exciting indicator, which would later be covered by a number of media outlets, is the company’s own data calculated based on several figures, including the number of reservations and the financial condition of each Hoshino Resort property.

It presents the company’s actual risks as concrete numbers. This has changed the mindset of the employees.

In a sense, the hardest thing for them is just to be vaguely concerned about the situation. Instead, it is better to have a clear understanding of the current situation, no matter how difficult it is, so that one can be prepared for it. If we are at the bottom now, we have to climb up from here. Then I was able to switch to think about what I should do to achieve that.

The current buffet. The height and shape of the acrylic covers that cover the food were designed through the team’s diligent verification.

The buffet at Resonare Atami started in 2011, when the hotel first opened. The buffet is a signature service for Resonare Atami, which is frequented by families, and can be said to be one of the symbols of Resonare Atami. However, the restaurant was forced to drop the sign before the onslaught of the coronavirus, but the voices of those on the frontlines provided a clue to the reopening of the buffet.

The buffet was completely closed on May 1, 2020, to prevent the spread of infection. It was unavoidable. However, as soon as the buffet was closed, the on-site staff, especially those who take reservations from customers, immediately asked if it would be difficult to reopen the buffet.

The record shows that the members who were taking reservations from customers raised the issue to the entire company on May 18. It was not until May 21 that a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of reopening the buffet, including a representative of the company.

Only three days after the opinions were raised at the site, they were put on the agenda for a company-wide meeting. The subsequent development was also swift.

On May 23, we decided to give it a try, and the members began to gather.
We use the word “flat,” but we have a culture of communicating with each other at the moment of need, regardless of position or brand. I think this is the reason for the speed of our work.

Staff from Risonale Atami and other Hoshino Resorts joined the staff of Risonale Atami to come up with a buffet style that can be enjoyed safely and securely even at the Corona Disaster.

However, it was a process of continuous trial and error. It was a start from scratch, with no model to follow.

We were the first to consider reopening a buffet, so we didn’t have a model case. For example, let’s say you want to cover a platter with food with an acrylic cover. But at the time, we didn’t have the right answer as to what shape would be best to prevent splashing and still be easy to use. Using data on the average height of adults, we carefully verified each and every possible assumption each staff member could make, such as effective position and shape, to find the best solution.”

A series of unprecedented initiatives. I wonder if there were any objections.

Everyone was eager to respond to customer feedback. It is true that we cannot say there is zero risk. However, we were not opposed to the reopening because of the risks, but rather we discussed how we could overcome them and how we could deal with them.

Thus, concrete and various measures were developed, such as limiting users to overnight guests and coating tables and chairs with an antiviral effect.

Then came June 12. Finally, on June 12, the buffet was reopened at the Risonale Atami. It was surprisingly fast, less than a month after the proposal was made by the staff. On July 1, all of Hoshino Resort’s facilities reopened in earnest.

The guests were happier than we had imagined, and we felt that reservations themselves were gradually recovering. The with Corona initiative is not limited to buffets. Around the same time, we also developed a system to display the congestion rate of the large bathrooms via an application, and we have also achieved avoidance of congestion.

An app was developed to avoid the three densities in the large bathrooms. This was also released in June 2020.

With this assurance of safety and security, Risonare Atami is moving on to the next step. The next step is the creation of new plans that meet the needs of customers.

The concept of the “Risonare” brand, which includes five Hoshino Resorts in Japan, including Atami, is “family resorts for adults. In most family resorts, children tend to play the leading role, but we want not only children but also adults to enjoy and relax. We design our plans with this in mind, never giving up on the adults’ enjoyment.”

The “Three-Generation Mizui-Izu Journey,” in which grandparents, spouses, and children spend time together, was born out of this desire.

The “three-generation trip” has been a trend in the tourism industry since around 2018. Risonare Atami has responded to this trend by creating rooms that can accommodate six adults and offering plans for three generations. In the wake of the Corona disaster, more and more people are saying that it is difficult to travel with friends, but it might be nice to travel with family or relatives, and the need for three-generation travel is becoming more and more pronounced.

Reunions between grandparents and grandchildren are more precious than ever. In order to make such important occasions even more fulfilling, we have enhanced our “Three-Generation Mizui-Izu Journey” program.

The plan has gained popularity, and room reservations are still filling up fast. This is due in part to the fact that Atami is located approximately halfway between eastern and western Japan. For example, people of the current generation who hail from western Japan, such as Kansai and Kyushu, but now live in eastern Japan, such as Tokyo, choose Atami as a place to “reunite” with their parents and grandchildren. This is happening more and more often.

It was during this time that General Manager Fukui began to see a “certain scene” that had never been seen before.

We are seeing more and more families who have been away from each other reuniting at the hotel’s entrance or in the lobby. I am sure that this is because they are now doing so in order to avoid contact with other people as much as possible, whereas before they used to meet at the airport or train station.

I was really shocked when I saw such a scene for the first time. If not for Corona, we would have seen grandparents and grandchildren hugging each other for the first time in a very long time.

I still see such scenes every day, and it really makes me smile. It is the same when I see them off. I am always moved by the sight of the grandchildren waving goodbye to the grandparents as they ride away on the shuttle bus,” he said.

Family stories are being spun in a safe and secure space created with a thorough customer-first spirit.

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