Yoshiharu Hoshino is the quietest, calmest entrepreneur you could possibly imagine.
But when he speaks, you listen.
The fourth generation Japanese hotelier – slightly built, stylish – inherited a single ryokan in 1991 and now manages 35 modern ryokans and hotels across Japan with two more in Tahiti in Bali.
And his message in Sydney this week revolved around brand, that it is everything – a fundamental fact that many international accommodation businesses have forgotten, he says.
“They’re increasing the number of brands not because of consumers but because of owners.
“There are so many brands, you cannot remember what each brand means. This has created an opportunity for the Online Travel Agents because it confuses the customers.
“I think there will be some correction in the future, some consolidation of brands.”
Yoshiharu says the strategy of Horishino Resorts has been to develop deeper relationships with OTAs.
“We are now trying to get more commitment and asking them to meet sales targets.”
He was on a promotional tour for Hoshino Resorts, which wants to attract more guests from the Australian tourist market to Japan, which has been growing a 20% year since 2012.
Hoshino Resorts has three different brands – Hoshinoyo (flagship, best of Japan), Kai (modern ryokan) and Risonare (recreation, revitalisation) – and is known for combining tradition with modernity.
It has evolved from a 72-room ryokan in Karuizawa, Yoshiharu’s home town in the mountains near Nagano and north-west of Tokyo.
He ran that ryokan for 10 years before in 1991 Goldman Sachs offered Hoshino a turnaround opportunity at which they were successful.
And so began a profitable relationship. Hoshino became the operating partner of the famous investment bank’s hospitality business and things took off from there.