Ollie the OwlTripAdvisor mascot – an owl called Ollie – has one red eye and one green eye. And like the traffic light symbols they represent, TripAdvisor and other online recommendation sites let you know through massive user content contribution which hotels are a-go, and which are not. According to Mr. Michael Stobo, the head of APAC Market Development at TripAdvisor, Japan had a record 14 million foreign tourists in 2014, and that is expected to climb to 20 million in the next five years. Now I thought that a big issue for the Olympics will be hotel capacity, since hotels in Tokyo appear to be already at high occupancy rates on average days.

But according to Mr Stobo, who spoke recently at an American Chamber of Commerce Japan event, the issue is more about inefficiency. “Lots of companies that manage properties in Japan still target mostly domestic travelers,” answered Stobo to my question. “These travel companies – like Jalan, and Rakuten- need to be more externally aware as they are so Japan focused.” “For example, Expedia may only offer 10 rooms of a given hotel to a customer, but while there is actually remaining inventory, those rooms aren’t made available to overseas customers. It’s an efficiency issue. It’s possible because they have difficulty selling in French or German, they are reluctant to make the rooms available (to non-Japanese).” Interesting! Stobo went on to say that Japan needs to continue improving the ability for the non-Japanese to navigate on their own. “It’s not just about making inventory available. Navigating the rail

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From the New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2015
From the New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2015

Hotels in Tokyo are already at record occupancy rates, well over 80%. In many cases, you simply can’t book a room in the major hotels in Tokyo. An acquaintance recently told me that he tried to book hotel rooms for July/August 2020, in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics, but the hotels weren’t biting. By 2020, Tokyo will have an additional 1,780 more rooms available, but tourism to Japan is increasing, and the Olympics will see a huge spike in tourists. What to do? What to do? Is Airbnb the answer? (In the case of Japan, probably not….) Go to NYTimes article.