Kyoto's latest luxury hotel, called Suiran, will feature the comforts of an American-style hotel while embracing design elements of the traditional culture of Kyoto. Image: Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

American Tourists’ Love for Kyoto Inspires US High-End Hotels– アメリカ人の京都人気で米高級ホテルが古都に進出


This article is presented bilingually in English and Japanese. For Japanese, click here. この記事は日本語でもお読みいただけます。日本語はこちら

In December, 2014, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., the American parent company of Westin, Sheraton, W, Le Meridien, and others, announced the opening of a new luxury hotel in Kyoto in the spring of 2015. The new hotel will use the company’s most exclusive brand, becoming a part of the “Luxury Collection” line of hotels and the first of its kind in Japan. The hotel, to be called “Suiran,” will be in Arashiyama district in the western part of Kyoto, which is famous for its natural beauty. It will also be next to Tenryuji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple that is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other American luxury hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt Regency, opened in 2014 and 2006, respectively. Four Seasons, a Canadian high-end hotel chain, also revealed its plans to open in Kyoto in 2016. These hotels are not new to Japan, but are new to Kyoto. Although many international hotel chains are easily found in Tokyo, they have not been common in Kyoto until recently. One reason is Kyoto’s tight construction regulations to preserve its historical scenery, which includes 17 World Heritage sites. As a result, Starwood’s Suiran will be just three-storied, The Ritz-Carlton is two-storied, and the Hyatt Regency is five-storied. Kyoto’s rich history has also often made it difficult for newcomers to gain market entry.

However, American travelers’ love for Kyoto is changing the trend and driving a demand for familiar, high-end hotels to move into the city. According to the Kyoto City Office, in 2013 Americans ranked as the second largest cohort of foreign tourists, out of 1.13 million foreign tourists who visited the city. Americans accounted for 14.5% of tourists, only after Taiwanese, who represented 20.8%. Chinese tourists made up 9.5%, while Australia ranked fourth at 6.4%. Kyoto’s visitor rates are substantially different from the Japanese national levels, where the US was ranked fourth and accounted for just 7.7% of all tourists, indicating that American tourists disproportionally visit Kyoto as compared to other nationalities.

American travel magazine “Travel + Leisure” selected Kyoto as the world’s best city to visit in July, 2014. Because of that honor, the Kyoto City Office upgraded its English language website to be more foreigner-friendly and further boost its reputation.