Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Howard Group, JR-East sign cooperation pact

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Howard Hotel Group (福華飯店集團), the nation’s largest hospitality company by hotel room number, yesterday inked a cooperation agreement with Japan’s JR-East Hotels to share resources on sales, membership and employee training in a bid to double its number of Japanese guests.

The alliance might allow Howard Group to increase its ratio of Japanese guests from 15 percent to 30 or even 40 percent, as the two sides could court customers from each other’s Web sites, group president Michael Liao (廖東漢) said.

“Through resource sharing, the two sides could expand their product offerings and gain customers from overseas as competition intensifies in Taiwan and Japan,” Liao said.

Howard Group owns 20 facilities in Taiwan with a total of 3,200 rooms, while JR-East Hotels operates 48 hotels near main railway stations.

The cooperation is a win-win for both sides, as Taiwanese travelers visiting Japan might reach 4.6 million this year, while inbound Japanese travelers would likely total 2 million, Taiwan Visitors Association chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) said.

The gap also suggests ample room for growth on the part of local hotels, which should try to attract Japanese travelers, Yeh said.

JR-East Hotels chairman Masayuki Satomi said that Taiwan has proved a dynamic market in tourism and retail sales, and affiliated companies have set up offices in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義) with an aim to expand into the local market.

The Japanese group has reportedly rented retail space in the Breeze Center Nan Shan branch (微風南山) that might start to serve customers by the end of the year.

Howard Group is seeking to woo JR-East’s 300,000 members through discounts at its rooms and dining facilities, Liao said.

Howard Group has 60,000 members.

The alliance might lead Howard Group to open outlets in Japan when the time is ripe, preferably in Tokyo, he said.

Its resort facility in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) has reported occupancy rate improvements following the introduction of travel subsidies for hotels in eastern and southern Taiwan, officials said.

Affiliate Forte Hotel Group (福泰飯店) earlier this year opened hot spring resort Yamagata Kaku Hotel & Spa (山形閣) in Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪), and is next year to set up a budget hotel targeting young backpackers, officials said.

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