Yoshiharu Hoshino is the CEO and fourth-generation owner of Japan-headquartered Hoshino Resorts, which runs 48 hotels and has nearly 4,000 employees. (image via Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0; cropped)
Slow and steady wins the race, or at least does not fold up midway. That’s the gist of advice from Japanese hotelier Yoshiharu Hoshino. He is the CEO and fourth-generation owner of Hoshino Resorts, a 107-year-old brand which runs 48 hotels and has nearly 4,000 employees.
“There are many more failures than successes with start-ups. But those who fail aren’t always getting something wrong; they have good ideas, an approach and a vision. What they don’t always have is time,” Hoshino told Monocle in May. “People want a quick return; too quick. Investors might expect a profit in three years. To build something, you have to invest in time and have a long-term commitment. The key to success is to give yourself time.”
The importance of surveys and data is another lesson from Hoshino’s strategies. These helped him tweak his gameplan as the pandemic set in.
“In April 2020, I created an 18-month survival plan for our staff with an estimation of loss and a look at what business we could win and how,” Hoshino said. “I made this to send a clear message, reorganise and clarify our priorities. Usually I call for a long-term vision but I shifted to a shorter strategic plan.”
Then, in June 2020, Hoshino conducted a survey of 20,000 people around Tokyo and asked whether they wanted to travel within Japan when the state of emergency was lifted.
“Twenty-seven per cent said ‘no’, while 42 per cent answered ‘yes’. Our strategy was to target those who were unsure,” Hoshino said. “We identified their concerns about travel and tried to solve them one by one; we developed an application for guests to remotely check the occupancy of the big onsen (natural hot spring water) bath and also redesigned our buffet set-ups to make them safer. We also searched the country for things we could still do during a pandemic, such as renting open-air buses. We rented them to offer guests a safe way to see the beautiful countryside. They were very popular.”
A hospitality-specific takeaway from Hoshino’s playbook is the importance of micro-tourism in pandemic times, and to make hotels available to customers at short distances.
“Nobody wants to be stuck far away from home,” he said. “One reason why many people were reluctant to travel was transport: a child might have a fever and, suddenly, the whole family would be in trouble because the airlines wouldn’t have let them fly. This is where our ‘microtourism’ comes into play. The idea is to drive to a destination within two hours of your home.”