By Sarah Noorbakhsh
While the words ‘business hotel’ in Japan are often synonymous with the image of dark and smoky rooms that would make even a seasoned salary man shudder, Super Hotel has been working since 2000 to change that image into one that feels welcoming not only to business men, but women and families as well. Touting the motto “Japan’s Best Budget Hotel,” this chain offers a number of innovative features that have boosted it into the spotlight. Says President Ryousuke Yamamoto, “We want to be both evolutionary and revolutionary in the budget hotel industry, offering lower prices than possible before while still maintaining high customer satisfaction.”
And low-price this hotel is, with one night in a single room often costing under ¥5,000. But while this isn’t unusual for budget business hotels, Super Hotel sets itself apart with clean and modern well-lit rooms and lobbies, and various “extras” such as a free fresh breakfast buffet, wireless internet access, buildings featuring all non-smoking rooms, and some establishments featuring onsen. “Ladies rooms” offer female customers special hair dryers and cosmetics sets; it has been speculated that Super Hotel has been including university-age women in recent marketing campaigns promoting the hotel as a great place to stay on trips during school vacations as well as for a “girls night out.” Rooms with a bunk bed are also available for families.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this budget chain is the automation; payment for a stay is made through an ATM-like machine in the lobby where customers choose their room type then feed in the required amount in cash. Once this process is complete, a sheet of paper is printed with the assigned room number and a special number code which serves as a key when entered into the number pad located on the doors. On the way to their quarters, customers have the opportunity to choose from six types of pillow featuring various firmnesses, part of the chain’s “Gussuri Nemureru” (sleep well) system that includes special beds, pajamas, and lighting.
Keyless entry is combined with a check outfree departure to create Super Hotel’s “No Key No Check-out System” This eliminates the majority of contact customers have with the front desk, which often goes unmanned, a cut in staffing that reduces costs by about 35%, says Yamamoto. These savings are enhanced by the high operating ratio the chain is able to maintain with over 70% of customers being repeat users.
Cost reduction and high operating ratio has had a big hand in the success of Super Hotel, whose profits have nearly tripled in just over five years. But the company is still growing, and hopes to increase to 100 hotels by 2010. Although currently unlisted, once this goal is reached Yamamoto says it will be one of the first things they’ll consider.