The Snow Business in the ‘ASPEN OF ASIA’ Where Billionaires and Luxury Hotels Assemble

Billionaires and actors dine on sushi in ski lodges and relax in natural hot springs on the side of an active volcano. Niseko is an up-and-coming hotspot located on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, that’s home to some of the best ski slopes in the world. Along with its fresh powder and natural hot springs, the area is also home to impressive restaurants and bars in the resort villages.

“Champagne powder” snow,  a variety of luxury chalets, and an under-the-radar skiing hotspot, Niseko has caught the attention of luxury hotel chains and wealthy skiers. while an assortment of expensive chalet rentals are already built up in the area, a fleet of luxury hotels will soon join the high-end offerings: A Park Hyatt will be completed at the end of this year, a Ritz-Carlton is forthcoming in 2020, and a W Hotel is set to arrive in 2021.

Movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and Sam Neill have been known to frequent the area, which also includes a lively nightlife and extensive dining options. A feature by Vogue noted the area’s incredible seafood, which sets it apart from other inland ski resorts around the world.

From 2005, young professionals and families from Australia began visiting, together with wealthy individuals from Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea. As well as skiing in Niseko in winter, these tourists would often return in the summer for hiking, kayaking, golf and other outdoor activities.

The areas surrounding Niseko United ski resort have become a hotbed for investment in recent times, with several high-profile properties opening this season and many more in the works.

Property prices have increased dramatically. An article published by TTG Asia in 2019 noted that Niseko had become “Asia’s fastest appreciating resort real estate market”, with “premium pricing levels in prime projects attain levels of US$15-20,000 per square metre”.

One of the biggest projects in the area, though, is on the other side of the mountain. On the slopes of the Hanazono ski resort is the $500 million Park Hyatt Niseko, with 100 hotel rooms and 114 condo units. It is scheduled to open soon.

With the Japanese government at both national and local levels pushing for more tourists — and with more international flights from around Asia pouring into Japan — these numbers are expected to grow, further feeding Niseko’s accommodation crunch.

“It is almost impossible to book a hotel in Niseko if you don’t move very early,” a Singaporean business owner said. Instead of spending big on accommodation for a holiday, the rich are getting their hands on ski-in properties there for regular visits. Attractive rental program with local companies gives decent rental yield while managing the property throughout the year. It is expected to have 5% or above per year with the fast-growing tourism market.