executive impact

The APA way - Always Pleasant Amenities

31 Comments
By Chris Betros

Fumiko Motoya is certainly an easy person to recognize. As president of APA Hotel Co Ltd, Japan’s largest business hotel chain, her cheerful face adorns billboards, in which says “私が社長です” (I am a company president), she appears on TV, in magazines and newspapers and her face is on the company’s brands of water, curry and other products. She is also famous for her collection of colorful hats which now number about 240.

As we enter Motoya’s office, she and her husband Toshio, APA’s CEO, greet us at a large boardroom table covered with full-page ads for APA, books about the company and, of course, all the APA products.

The group currently has 415 hotels for a total of 13,253 rooms. Of those, 62 are in Tokyo’s 23 wards and a new one is about to open in Ochanomizu. The company’s success rests heavily on its 11,808,804 card members (as of Sept 30), the fact that all its hotels are within three minutes’ walk of a train or subway station and what the brand’s initials stand for — “Always Pleasant Amenities,” said Motoya. The three letters are the middle three letters of the word “Japan,” making it easy to remember, she adds.

This year has been a big year for APA in terms of overseas expansion. “We currently have 40 hotels in total across the U.S. and Canada; our first grand opening in that area was the APA Hotel Woodbridge in New Jersey on June 20, and we acquired the hotel chain Coast Hotel,” Motoya said. “We are in our second year of the expansion plan Summit 5-II that we announced in April 2015, and we have successfully opened the APA Hotel Hiroshima Eki Mae Ohashi, the largest hotel in the Chubu Shikoku area with 727 rooms. We also worked to expand our business in areas outside of Tokyo, more specifically the central cities of the regional areas.”

The next big project is a Yokohama which will have 2,400 rooms, making it Japan’s largest hotel.

“Yokohama is a great location for tourists because of the beautiful cityscape and its accessibility to Tokyo," said Motoya. "With international events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics coming up, we strongly hope that a large number of tourists from around the world will come to Yokohama. We will cooperate with the city’s Kitanaka Street North District Redevelopment Promotion Plan by recovering the walls of the historical Bankokubashi Building, formerly located in the same area and now deconstructed, on the lower floors, and taking into careful consideration the design harmony with neighboring buildings. As an urban resort, which will be the new hotel’s theme, we plan on installing a large common bathtub, an outside pool and poolside restaurants. Its location near the station meets the needs of the APA hotel users; currently, there are over 11.8 million APA Hotel users and most are business persons. In addition, we think that we will be able to attract many foreign visitors as we are number one among all the business hotels in the nation, with the largest number of deals with foreign online travel agents.”

As its marketing strategy, the company has installed 103 signboards on the platforms and concourses of eight Tokyo Metro lines since December 2015. From December this year, it will put up 100 more signboards along the eight Tokyo Metro lines as well as four Toei Subway lines. “We are aiming for further brand recognition by installing a total of 496 signboards across the country, including ones in Niigata’s JR Joetsumyoko Station, and 284 signboards in 86 stations of Osaka City Subway,” said Motoya.

About 75% of APA’s guests are Japanese, but the group is gradually raising its profile among foreign visitors. “Our name has good positioning on places like Expedia, Agoda and booking.com. I think we have a lot to offer foreign guests,” Motoya said. “For example, we have free Wi-Fi and BBC broadcasts in hotel rooms. We have money exchange machines in some hotels.”

APA is further making efforts to be an eco-friendly brand. Guest rooms have LED lighting, while showers have less water pressure, meaning they conserve on water.

Then, of course, there are all the APA products. “We have sold over 1,700,000 dishes of the popular APA curry ever since its release,” Motoya said. “We based our curry on Kanazawa’s beef curry, and we received the 2016 Monde Selection Silver Quality Award. Also, our Natural Mineral Water from Fuji Streams has been recognized for its quality taste and received the 2016 Monde Selection Gold Quality Award. We distributed 10 million bottles to customers staying consecutive nights, and we are giving one bottle each to customers as part of our APA Eco Make project, where we aim to preserve water and prevent CO2 emissions through no cleaning service. For a new product, we have collaborated with Oyatsu Company, and distributed the Baby Star Ramen Kaki no Tane Mixto 1,000,000 customers. We received a lot of positive comments, especially about the packaging with a picture of my face. Others include APA Coffee, supervised by Daikanyama’s famous mobile coffee shop Motoya Express, APA Handkerchiefs sold at the front desk of some hotels, and our Original 3D Mesh Pillow (Air Relax) sold online — all of them widely popular among customers and very important for me.”

Motoya has become almost as famous for her hat collection as for being a “shacho.”

“When I wear my hats, people recognize me and I often get asked to pose for photos. I’ve heard that photos taken with me wearing a hat are supposed to bring good luck. When I don’t wear a hat on the subway or go to the supermarket, nobody recognizes me. I’ve got so many that I keep most of them in a museum that used to be an old Panasonic building but is now the Apa Hotel & Resort Jyoetsu Myoko.”

As the Olympics approach, there is concern that Japan does not have enough hotel rooms. Furthermore, hotels are facing a challenge from Airbnb’s entry into the Japanese market. But Motoya is not worried. “We think that C2C homestay services such as Airbnb will be a big help in solving the shortage of hotels with the vast increase in inbound visitors. However, there are concerns regarding subletting and unauthorized or illegal provision of services, so we strongly believe that the hotel industry is the best way for foreign visitors to experience the Japanese ‘omotenashi’ spirit,” Motoya said. “Also, homestay services are not widely common among business persons, and are only used by a number of inbound visitors. We have more than 11 million club members, so I don’t think Airbnb will affect us.”

Every time a new APA hotel opens, Motoya and her husband spend a night there, experiencing the service as a guest would. The APA group also believes in empowering women and its hotels have many women GMs. “I think women speak better English than men and are better at hospitality,” Motoya says.

There are certainly no dull days for Motoya, whose motto is “Make your work pleasure, and your work your pleasure.”

“I am a company manager, but I am also a responsible wife. I get up at around 6 a.m. and make breakfast for my husband, and send him off. I have to clean, do the laundry, and other house chores and so my days are very busy. Then, from 9 a.m. to around 6 p.m., I supervise and monitor the model houses, hotels and restaurant tenants for our hotel business, as well as apartment projects. Then there are events such as parties, opening ceremonies and conferences almost everyday. I am a visiting instructor at Tokyo International University, and I give lectures and special talk sessions. Due to my tight schedule, I haven’t been able to attend as many events as I'd like to. In the future, I would actually like to establish a university.”

And if one day, a movie is made about her life, what does she think the title should be? “I Am a Company President,” she says. What else?

For more information on the APA Group, visit www.apa.co.jp

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


31 Comments
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She's wearing fur. Now I know I will never stay in an APA hotel again.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Their rooms are impeccable, as you would expect at a Japanese hotel, but I think most foreign visitors will find them too small.

The Yokohama resort project sounds interesting. I am guessing they hope that Japan will have legalized casinos by then and that it will contain a casino.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Brainiac: Their rooms are impeccable, as you would expect at a Japanese hotel, but I think most foreign visitors will find them too small.

Dense cities? The tiniest rooms I've been in were in San Francisco and Paris.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

She's wearing fur.

@Moonraker

It's not too surprising that Motoya is wearing fur, given that she is not the most enlightened individual.

Aside from her business pursuits, she is well known for her abhorrent support of historic revisionism and ulta-nationalistic causes. The APA Group holds an annual essay contest titled "True Modern Historical Perspectives" (真の近現代史観) which the economist has described as "a competition for the best essay to deny Japan's wartime role as an aggressor and sponsor of atrocities." (One of the contest's notable winners was former Mormon missionary to Japan and television "tarento" (celebrity) Kent Gilbert.)

The irony is that a large percentage of her hotel guests are Chinese tourists, and other foreign visitors to Japan.

Link to "True Modern Historical Perspectives" essay contest website: http://ronbun.apa.co.jp/index.html

Link to previous JT article on the essay contest/AP Group: https://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/tamogamis-testimony-stirs-hornets-nest-in-diet

14 ( +17 / -3 )

Toyoko-Inn which is what APA is modeled after was once a great bargain but in places like Tokyo has been going downhill for the last two years. Sadly Toyoko-Inn is doing very little to clean up the hotel rooms which are so filthy now that APA is getting their long time loyal customers coming to them in droves, myself, family and friends included. I sure hope that APA cracks down hard on their customers that smoke in non-smoking rooms on their non-smoking floors and charges extra for the mess left on the walls, carpets and furniture in their rooms.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks for that, Sensato. I didn't know that.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Sensato, I discovered a nationalist book in the drawer when I stayed in an APA hotel years ago. It was in English and Japanese and was dissing foreigners, rambling on about historical events and at that point I decided I would never use that hotel group again.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Spanki/Sensato same here, couldnt believe they would put it in there in English as well. And as said, much of their recent profit is only thanks to all those Asian foreigners. Too bad nobody over there in the right position is stirring up a big noise about it,, leading to a huge boycott.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

APA have an interesting business model. At many of their hotels, you check-in at the front desk, but then you have to go to a vending machine to pay for your room, either cash or with some difficulty a credit card, obtain a receipt, and then get your key, from the front desk. As one of their 11,808,804 card members, always found it odd that the front desk staff don't like to handle money!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As one of their 11,808,804 card members, always found it odd that the front desk staff don't like to handle money!

My understanding is that it's mainly a theft-prevention measure (internal and external).

APA is doing well, but as others point out, they have some decidedly odd--if not downright odious--quirks. And, at least a couple of years ago, the English-language materials in their rooms (hotel guide, etc.) were some of the poorest translations I've ever seen. Hopefully they'll fix that before the Olympics, if they haven't already.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I didn't know she had those political views, or any political views. Thought she was just playing the eccentric for business publicity purposes. Unfortunately I have patronised the establishment in the past but definitely will not do so again.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

She and her husband just spent about JPY 50 billion on a huge, hodgepodge residence right in front of the tennis courts in Moto-azabu's Arisugawa Park. It looks like a Jules Verne watercraft-cum-Howl's Castle creation.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We stayed at APA in Kanta when we were in Tokyo last time. Yes, comparing to hotels in NA or some place else, they are small. But, that's pretty typical for Japanese hotel. However, who cares about all those x star facilities when you are not in the hotel most of the time. Those facilities are only useful when you stay inside the hotel. APA and Toyoko pretty much meets the needs for travelers who only need a decent place to sleep.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A museum for her own hats?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think women speak better English than men

WTF?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I also stayed in an APA hotel once. The room was nice but the in-room fascist propaganda magazine was outrageous and had to be defaced.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Same here the .first time I stayed in an Apartment hotel I came across the right winger propaganda book/ magazine article as well...said to myself that's the last time I stay in one and haven't been back since.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm tempted to book a room just to find out if they still place that book/magazine in their guest rooms.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Her comment that "women speak better English than men" is only her opinion. English speaking ability between men and women would have to be judged on a case by case basis, and could not possibly be an all-encompassing truth.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Her comment that "women speak better English than men" is only her opinion.

Women in general are more language oriented than me, but you are entirely right that it depends on both the woman and the man.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Stressful check in experiences on all 3 times I have stayed in these tiny rooms you could not swing a hamster in.

Go down for that famous curry and those 75% of Japanese patrons are smoking in the restaurant. Oh there is a tiny no smoking space which includes all the smoke from the huge smoking areas. Try booking online and they mostly offer a smoking floor. Keep that under your hat!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Stupid right wing book? Check. Non-smoking room smelling like smoke? Check. Suggested to use the freebreze they supply to get rid of the smoke smell? Check. No reply to the complaint email you sent to head office and the hotel you stayed in? Check.

I won't use APA ever again.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Let's face it...most of the budget chains like APA, Tokyo Inn, Super Hotel and the like are something to be tolerated, not enjoyed.

The only APA I stayed in had the right wing propaganda and will not stay in one again. For usually a 1000 yen more you can have a more enjoyable stay somewhere else (and frankly some of the APA's charge far too much for what they offer)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stayed at the APA Narita in July of 2015 lost my wallet in hotel, no help their , All dummied up . Skipped back to US on Passport ,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Sensato and Spanki

I was just logging in to highlight the same thing myself - good job. I was absolutely disgusted to find fascist literature when I stayed at one of their hotels, and vowed never to stay in one again. I actually took some photos of some of the more offensive passages in the books and attempted to upload them with a review on TripAdvisor, but the site wouldn't let me.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think it was only one night that I stayed at an APA hotel near Asakusabashi. I was very ill, but I recall the viking breakfast (available free or for a small fee?) was delicious and better than any I have ever enjoyed in recent memory.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

what the brand’s initials stand for — “Always Pleasant Amenities,” said Motoya. The three letters are the middle three letters of the word “Japan,”

But actually it's short for the English word apartment. Company used to be known as Apa Man(sion) and was a rental agent for low-end residences.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How long do we have to look at this lady's picture on the JT homepage? Did she give JT a large "donation"?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stayed at apA Kyoto was a good experience but an ultra small room like 11 m2 for 2 people Wouldn't mind staying again despite the fur and the nationalist propaganda Check in was easy and yes I paid by credit card Don't know what all the fuss is about

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This women just came to my company last week pushing her curry. I didn't know who she was and just thought, who was this old lady with not so happy face? I did try the curry, not bad but nothing to write home about. Later my co-worker told she is a super right winger and kind of famous.haha

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We stayed in one earlier this year in Kanazawa. It was very cheap for an urban hotel, under 6000 a night for a room, so 12000 for me, the missus and three kids. I didn't see any uyoku stuff but I'll tell my missus to check for any alternatives the next time we look to book somewhere. We would have gone camping but the weather was poor.

The rooms were small and something I did notice was that the room door passed the unit bathroom wall with a laughably small gap, definitely under 3cm. It was a heavy metal fire door with a spring closer on it. If you weren't careful, you could easily trap and injure a child.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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