Asia’s leading alpine resort destination Niseko is buzzing once again, high in the mountains of Hokkaido. Inbound travel is set to restart in a significant way on 11 October, when Japan once again gets back to the business of tourism.
Speaking to hotels and property rental groups on the ground, the uplift in bookings for the coming season was immediate once the government announcement was made. Another key in unlocking pent-up demand has been the movement of Hong Kong away from a quarantine regime. Hong Kong SAR represents the largest critical mass of overseas property buyers and investors in Niseko.
Unlocking the Hong Kong legacy market is also being heralded by property developers as a driver of transaction demand given the favourable US dollar to the yen exchange rate. Moreso, the exchange rate wild card is favourable to buyers from countries that peg their currency to the USD like the SAR.
Despite a two and a half year absence from the international stage during the pandemic, Niseko has continued to see an inflow of winter visitors, driven by Japanese and foreign passport holders living in the country. According to C9 Hotelworks’ newly released Niseko Tourism and Property Market Review 2022, there were 288,670 visitors in the first quarter of this year. Moving through the year, it’s important to understand that pre-COVID19, domestic summer travellers to the destination outpace the entire winter market.
For real estate developers though, high-value foreign buyers are linked to the winter season with extreme spikes in demand at Christmas, New Year, and onto the Chinese New Year period. Property owners who are often end-users over the past decade, pre-pandemic have faced the dilemma of either occupying their holiday homes when the ski town is packed or gaining astronomical peak season rental income.
Taking a deeper dive into C9 Hotelworks research, land prices while still growing at 12 percent this year, have softened due to the inability of foreign buyers being able to access the country. Two areas though that have continued to out-trade the trends are Hirafu and Hanazono. The latter has experienced a shift to strongly positive sentiment back to the opening of the Park Hyatt Hotel and Residences and further investment by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li’s PCPD Group into the growing integrated resort.
Key trends across Niseko’s tourism and property landscape point to a sharp rise in serviced land plots and estates where custom holiday or second homes could be constructed. There is also a widening of new projects to peripheral areas away from Hirafu due to limited prime land parcels and high acquisition costs.
While Niseko’s winter season is expected to see an influx of high-level returning foreign travellers and transactions take flight with handovers of units completed during the pandemic, there is growing concern over greater local development restrictions. Another critical forward-looking challenge is how longtime ski operators will deal with ageing facilities and the need to reinvest and modernise. That said, Japan is seeing a migration of large institutional investors, driven by low-interest rates and a sophisticated financial market infrastructure so there will likely be movement in this sector into Niseko.
Read and download the full C9 Hotelwork Niseko Tourism and Property Market Review at c9hotelworks.com/niseko-tourism-property-market-review.pdf
About Bill Barnett
Bill Barnett — a globally recognised hospitality, tourism, and real estate advisor — is the founder and managing director of Asia-based C9 Hotelworks and the chairperson of the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko) Judging Panel.
In addition to being a leading consultant, he is a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences. With over 30 years’ experience in the Asia Pacific region, he has an extensive background in hotel operations, development, and asset management. His past employment highlights include Senior Corporate roles at international hotel chains and publically listed companies. Bill is considered to be one of the foremost industry experts in the hotel residences sector. To date, Bill is the author of four books on travel, property, and hospitality under the titles of Slave to the Bean, Collective Swag, It Might Get Weird and Last Call.
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