What lies ahead for Niseko’s alpine property market

Reflecting on the Niseko property market in 2019, prices were skyrocketing at an unprecedented rate. The equilibrium of supply and demand was robust, and substantial price appreciation had become the norm. Fast forward over three years, the pivotal question arises: What’s different now?

My first visit to Niseko post-COVID-19 felt like a nostalgic homecoming to Asia’s charming alpine tourist destination. With summer in full swing, it’s worth noting that contrary to popular belief, the “off-season” here witnesses more footfall than the winter months, with a significant share attributed to Japanese domestic travellers.

Inquisitive about the market’s performance during the pandemic, I had an insightful conversation with Eddie Guillemette from MnK, the chairperson of the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Greater Niseko). Apart from overseeing real estate development, Eddie’s EdVenture outdoor kids camp has emerged as a pivotal summer attraction. He comments that Japanese tourists not only flocked to Niseko during the summer, but also the winter season. Despite its location in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan, Niseko’s allure, encompasses exceptional powder snow, noteworthy cuisine, and the iconic Mount Yotei Instagram view.

Driving into chic Hirafu Village, the sight of Setsu, from Singaporean property giant SC Global was uplifting. Setsu plays home to AFURI, a renowned Japanese ramen establishment, as a tenant, and I was a frequent visitor during my stay. Driving to Upper Hirafu, the construction of the Zekkei Group’s mixed-use Hoshinoya Hutte, managed by Hoshino Resorts, at the top of the hill is a best-in-class project.

Nearby, Korea’s Hanwa Group is nearing the completion of MUWA Niseko, a ski-in and ski-out property set to debut this upcoming season. At Grand Hirafu, an upgrade to a 10-person gondola is in progress and creating a buzz. Heading downhill to Hirafu’s Middle Village, the upcoming Six Senses Resort neighbours the completed Intuition development, with site work already in motion.

Shifting focus to what’s now dubbed Midtown, a Banyan Tree-managed Cassia is in the works, while across the street, the Philippine-based DoubleDragon is erecting a massive Hotel 101, which is drawing mixed reviews from locals.

Venturing to Hanazono, the impressive Park Hyatt Hotel and Residences greet me, with earthworks adjacent to 13 branded mega-homes designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kumo and interior designer Adrian Fu. Though prices remain undisclosed, estimates hover around the USD25 million mark, with four homes rumoured to be discreetly reserved “off-market.”

Richard Li’s PCPD flagship enterprise from Hong Kong, the driving force behind Niseko Hanazono Resort, is crafting other attractions, including the colossal 2,591-meter Zipflight and Bruce Munro’s captivating Mountain Lights art installation. Hanazono’s village expansion includes a 234-room Nikko-style hotel, while luxury golf course homes are poised to emerge nearby.

The Hanazono area hosts a number of new sophisticated developments—Hana Ridge, Hana Creek, and KABA—reflecting an upscale vibe that resembles a posh alpine Beverly Hills district. This sentiment is bolstered by a large-scale mixed-use project that will house an ultra-luxurious Capella hotel and residences, with site infrastructure making significant headway.

Summing up Niseko’s market trends, while the present scenario sees a softer market, a clearer picture will emerge come winter. Custom homes and house lots are increasingly sought after. Hanazono’s steady expansion positions it as a formidable contender against Hirafu. The influx of new hotel brands will enhance destination promotion. Units in recently completed or upcoming condos are available, making it crucial to gauge their absorption this winter.

In essence, Niseko continues to reign as Asia’s most advanced alpine real estate market. Witnessing the vibrant development during the pandemic era and the active progress across numerous projects was genuinely heartening.

For further insights, check out C9 Hotelworks’ latest Niseko Hotel and Tourism Review.

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 esteemed member 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.    

For more information, email: [email protected].