Tourism is one of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19. The Government of Japan has been imposing entry restrictions on many countries and regions, and Japan is sealed off from the outside world. Niseko, which is visited by many overseas tourists, is particularly affected. The HANAZONO Resort in Kutchan Town is managed by the real estate company Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD) in Hong Kong. We interviewed Benjamin Lam, Deputy Chairman of the company, about what he thinks about future investments.
(Interviewer and journalist: Nobuaki Takeda)
Why does Hong Kong capital invest in Niseko?
Niseko has been attracting overseas skiers for the past 20 years. One reason is the high-quality powder snow, which has a water content of only 8 percent. The annual snowfall is 14 to 15 m, making it a very rare place where skiing can be enjoyed until May. Our vision is to provide the highest level of accommodation for vacationers in Niseko and to make it the world’s best resort throughout the year, basically targeting wealthy travelers.
Your company has sold part of the site to Fujita, a second-tier general contractor.
PCPD has looked for a partner with whom we can share our vision and passion, and Fujita has the same idea. We face differences in business customs and culture when doing business in Japan, so we wanted to proceed smoothly with business by working with a local company.
Is there any possibility that you will change or withdraw future investment plans due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak?
PCPD has always enjoyed a high sales growth since its first investment in Niseko. Certainly, hotel facilities were temporarily closed and construction of ski lifts was affected, but we expect that the market will recover slightly in the second half of this year.
COVID-19 is definitely affecting tourism around the world, but the fundamentals of Niseko haven’t changed. We are convinced that Niseko will continue to grow as the most attractive tourist destination in Asia in the long term. As the Hokkaido Shinkansen line will pass through Niseko, we can expect a further increase in the number of tourists. We’d like to continue to invest.
Do you have future investment plans?
So far, we have invested 700 million US dollars (approx. 75 billion yen) in Niseko in hotels, condominiums and lifts. In the future, focusing on the expansion of the ski field, the construction of Asia’s longest zip line and trekking facilities, as well as developing kayaking, standing paddle boarding and other recreational activities, we’d like to make Niseko a place where you can enjoy yourselves throughout the year.
After studying engineering at the University of Hong Kong and business management at Manchester Business School in the UK, he has worked in the financial field at financial institutions and developers. In 2004, he joined Pacific Century Premium Developments Limited (PCPD) as the Chief Operating Officer (COO), and subsequently served as Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Deputy CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Mr. Lam, aged 58, is currently the Deputy Chairman and Group Managing Director of the company.
(Excerpt from an article on July 27, 2020)