Morgan Chaudeler, president of AICHI Sky Expo in Japan and Thomas Vidal, cluster GM of Marriott International for Nagoya, speak about the importance of events to their respective venues.
MW: For those not familiar with Aichi, where is it situated?
MC: Aichi prefecture is situated in the centre of Japan, on the Pacific Coast side and located between Tokyo and Osaka. Nagoya is the capital of Aichi prefecture.
How has the year to date worked out for each of your venues?
MC: For Aichi Sky Expo, we are still going through a recovery period, but there is strong interest in Japan for business tourism and events. We’re seeing a mix of short and long term bookings beyond 2025.
TV: We had a good first quarter for the hotels here in Nagoya, Aichi. We can finally see the recovery of travel and hotel demand, not only domestic, but also international visitors.
The occupancy levels, of course, depend on the hotels and the location. But overall for the region we’ve seen an increase in 50%-60% on average in hotel rooms occupied. Nagoya’s recovery is a little bit behind Tokyo and Osaka, but we’re improving.
Have your expectations for 2022/2023 been met, in terms of recovery since Covid?
MC: We have had to realign exactly what we wanted to do. After Covid, at first there were no strong restrictions in Japan and we were able to continue doing business. We were in a positive place compared to the rest of the world. The second thing is that because of the postponement of the Olympic Games, the main venues in Tokyo remained unavailable to host B2B and B2C events. So that’s why a lot of national events were relocated to Aichi and Aichi Sky Expo. We benefited from the unavailability of the venues in Tokyo.
Thomas, was there much disruption to your two hotel properties?
TV: Until October last year both the Courtyard and the Four Points hotels were limited to purely the domestic market. Inbound travellers could not enter the country yet. So the disruption was significant.
Luckily the Marriott branded hotel can benefit from the popularity of the brand and its Bonvoy Membership programme. Even in these tough times, we had a solid base of Japanese domestic Bonvoy members who kept staying in our hotels. This allowed us to maintain occupancy levels.
The room rates of our hotels here in Nagoya, the average room rates, and other cities across Japan are back to pre-Covid levels or even higher.
Morgan, What are the dimensions of Aichi Sky Expo and what kind of events are you typically attracting?
MC: Aichi Sky Expo is the fourth largest venue in Japan and also the newest, opening in 2019. In terms of exhibition space, we have six halls, each measuring 10,000sqm. We have five halls that can open up into one large hall measuring 50,000sqm, which makes it the largest exhibition hall in Japan. In addition to this, we also have an 18 meeting rooms.
We attract a broad spectrum of events and are able to host outside events because we have 36,000sqm of outside space. We recently hosted an automobile event in April, the Nagoya Motorcycle Show.
We also host international concerts – most recently we hosted The 1975 and Avril Lavigne.
Thomas, could you tell us a bit more about your two properties?
TV: Both hotels together have a total just shy of 700 rooms. The Courtyard in the city has 360 rooms and the Four Points at the airport has just over 300.
The Four Points, right next to the Aichi Sky Expo, tends to be a favourite for people attending events.
The Courtyard has big meeting and banquet space, with a ballroom holding 300 guests, and several meeting rooms.
How does being located next to the International Chubu Airport help bring business to Aichi Sky Expo?
MC: Aichi Sky Expo is located five minutes from the airport. The airport has a very strong network of airlines coming in from Asia, but also from the USA and Europe. It is convenient for visitors to go directly to Aichi Sky Expo.
The airport has a capacity to receive 15 million passengers. We have more than 70 domestic flights daily and 70 international flights every day.
Thomas, is there a partnership between your two hotels and Aichi Sky Expo?
TV: We do collaborate to make sure that our hotels are seen as preferred hotels and we try to develop and promote the destination. Aichi is not on the map like Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto but it has a lot to offer in terms of business opportunities, and also from a leisure point of view.
Is Aichi/Nagoya well connected?
TV: The three main cities are connected directly to Nagoya station. You can get from the airport to Nagoya City Centre in 29 minutes using the Express train or 40-50 minutes by car.
What makes Aichi Sky Expo stand out compared to other venues in Japan?
MC: The first thing is, we have the connection with GL events – the only venue in Japan managed by the group. Having this brand backing the venue is a huge benefit. Organisers can sign long term contracts with GL events to organise their events. For example, if an organiser has an annual event, they can organise this year at Paris, next year at Aichi, in two years at Rio. The programme guarantees the level of quality of service for all of venues.
The second is easy access to the venue from the International Airport, which has been awarded the best regional airport in in the world, according to the Skytrack certification.
We are also a permanent bonded exhibition centre, meaning that the exhibitors can import their exhibited items without paying taxes and import them with simplified process.
We have a strong cluster in the region for sectors in the automotive, aerospace and robotics and have developed a very strong network with local stakeholders, so we can connect the organiser directly to these key economic players.
Thomas, the Four Points and the Courtyard properties, do they get a lot of business travellers or are they more leisure based?
TV: Originally, the Courtyard is a brand from the US, which is designed to appeal to the business traveller. However, the type of traveller staying at both hotels depends on the time of year. If a big convention is taking place at the Aichi Sky Expo, then the Four Points will be packed and mostly welcoming business or corporate travellers. During the autumn period we tend to get a lot of Asian leisure guests travelling to Japan.
Does Aichi or Nagoya have a convention bureau or DMO?
MC: Aichi actually created a public private partnership when Aichi Sky Expo opened. The goal of this partnership is to promote the destination. There is a dedicated budget, subsidies offering financial support for specific events and we are also creating what we call a welcome package to help international visitors to come and enjoy Aichi.
TV: We have been building a network to raise the profile of Aichi, which may have been missing in the past, compared to other competitor destinations. We are keen to show that we do not only have the facilities, but also the brands and the knowledge to welcome the international travellers and exhibitors.
How important is sustainability to your venues?
MC: We are applying the policy of GL events, which is putting sustainability as a priority. Full information can be read in the annual report which includes our carbon reduction targets.
Furthermore, Aichi Sky Expo’s building has a variety of sustainable ideas.
The venue is certified with CASBEE or Zeb Ready, which certifies that our building is designed to consume less energy comparing to the other buildings of the same scale. Moreover, the materials used to build the venue have come from the Aichi prefecture – such as the wood, the ceramic, the porcelain, the bricks, etc.
We involve local stakeholders with regards to the food and all aspects of the management. Moreover, Aichi Sky Expo’s energy is 100% renewable and sustainable.