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Turning the pandemic into an opportunity at SnowDog Village, Niseko!

Early this year disaster struck for everyone in the tourism industry with COVID 19 spreading rapidly with international tourism stopped pretty much worldwide. And then on top of these issues we were facing as owners of a small boutique hotel in Niseko, Ski Japan our lettings agent informed us that they would not be operating for the summer months which left all the owners in a difficult position as this would mean no income.

Niseko Village (Higashiyama) summer tourism. Statistics show that tourism numbers are higher in this area in the green season than the white. Most are day-trippers which meant we just needed to find a way to encourage them to stay longer than a day & at SnowDog Village!

Nicolas Pulinx, Chairman & Founder, took the bold decision to seize the opportunity and set up a lettings company to work on behalf of the SnowDog Village owners to capture these day-trippers. With the Japanese government's incentive campaign "go-to travel" which provides residents with subsidies of up to 50 per cent on transportation, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and shopping, all within Japan, we capitalised on this and helped kick start our summer bookings.

From a standing start, we have managed to fill the hotel with close to 200 guests for a long weekend in September just 2months after we started, a first for SnowDog Village in the green season. This we hope has set out the foundations required to hit our goal & target of achieving all-year-round occupancy within the next 3-years.

So how did we go from a standing start in June to being fully booked by September?

  1. Appointed Rena Okino as General Manager in Japan.

  2. End of June obtained innkeeper’s license for SnowDog Village under TB&Co (the lettings company set up solely to work on behalf of the owners)

  3. Quickly put together a small team of bilingual Japanese staff to run this summer’s letting business.

  4. Mid-July launched a new independent website with a complete set of booking systems & channels including online travel agents.

  5. July 17th officially opened Niseko's ONLY dog-friendly hotel for summer 2020 bookings.

  6. With a strong emphasis on digital marketing, we quickly saw new bookings come in. At the same time, we saw many cancellations due to the unstable Covid-19 situation in Hokkaido and the rest of Japan.

  7. By the peak summer weeks in mid-August, we started to see stability with bookings after the initial struggle to balance new and cancelled bookings.

  8. As the Japanese central government and Hokkaido both rolled out travel incentives to boost tourism, we applied for these travel subsidies. Our guests took advantage of Hokkaido resident discounts and “Go To Travel” campaign offering 35-50% discounts on accommodation and travel expenses.

  9. Over the long holiday weekend in September, we reached full occupancy for the first time in the green season in the history of SnowDog Village. 80% of our guests were Hokkaido residents taking advantage of micro-tourism and the rest from Tokyo/Yokohama/Osaka and other large cities.

With success come new objectives - How to increase all-year-round occupancy at SnowDog Village!

Our success in the summer shows us the domestic market is an important sector with strong growth potential that we need to focus on as much as the international market. To do this we needed a strong lettings partner that has the capabilities to do this.

With this in mind, we took this as an opportunity to put together the dream team that could achieve this mix of domestic & international guests for our SnowDog Village property.

So out with the old in with the new!!

I am pleased & excited to introduce you to our new partner, Vacation Niseko, with a proven track record for both domestic & international tourism in Niseko. Working closely as partners we will reach our goal of achieving all-year-round occupancy for our boutique ski-in aparthotel - SnowDog Village Niseko - For more information on the appointment of Vacation Niseko's as SnowDog Village lettings agent

My name is Jo Lodder Managing Partner at JNW Properties in Hong Kong, marketing & selling our developments in Niseko which include SnowDog Village, SnowDog Chalets and the famous Raku Ichi Residences. I have a passion for exploring, and love to hike the mountains of Hokkaido in the summer, and to ski the Niseko famed fluffy champagne snow in the winter.

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