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    Hoshino Resorts takes aim at Japanese youth with $50 stays

    Outdoor fireplaces and tabletop ice hockey on offer at popular mountain inn

    A triple room features a sofa bed and loft bed to maximize the use of space. (Photo by Haruki Kitagawa)

    TOKYO -- Hoshino Resorts on Tuesday opened a hotel targeting fun-loving young travelers in the mountain resort town of Karuizawa, offering discounted stays of as little as $50 per night to people 35 and younger.

    The hotel, called BEB5 Karuizawa, offers guest rooms featuring wooden interiors and traditional tatami mats. A triple room of about 20 sq. meters has a sofa bed on the floor and a loft-style double bed above.

    The move marks the company's latest effort to shore up travel demand among youth and cultivate a future customer base. Worried that travel demand will fall off as the population declines, Hoshino Resorts has been working to encourage young people to travel, offering youth discounts at its Kai chain of traditional ryokan-style inns in the hot spring resort towns of Hakone and Nikko, among other places.

    "The concept is quite challenging," CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino told reporters at the opening event Tuesday.

    Room rates start at 18,000 yen ($163) and vary by season. But when all occupants are 35 or younger, the party qualifies for a fixed discounted rate of 16,000 yen. The rate per person comes to 8,000 yen for a party of two, and just over 5,000 yen, or about $50, for a party of three.

    Cafe facilities in the common area offer snacks and coffee. (Photo by Haruki Kitagawa)

    The hotel has 40 of these triple rooms, as well as 32 twin rooms of the same size and one bigger room of 30 sq. meters. Rooms are almost fully booked for Japan's Golden Week holidays from late April to early May.

    Hoshino is trying out the new BEB5 hotel chain in its home base of Karuizawa, in Nagano Prefecture, with plans to expand to other areas in the future.

    The concept is to offer abundant leisure opportunities for young people traveling with friends, in an effort to cater to younger generations that place a strong emphasis on who they travel with and what activities they engage in.

    The hotel, a U-shaped two-story building, features a large common space on the first floor, with cafe facilities and sofas. Guests can rent lanterns and cushions for free. Outdoor fireplaces help guests stay warm during the winter off-season. Guests can cook bacon with Swedish torches at the fireplace, and play tabletop ice hockey on a miniature rink of real ice.

    Guests can cook bacon and other food on Swedish torches outdoors. (Photo by Haruki Kitagawa)

    Younger guests get a discount on the hot spring facilities as well, paying only 500 yen, compared with the standard rate of 1,300 yen.

    Room rates do not include meals, unlike at many Japanese leisure hotels. A breakfast of French toast, soup and a drink is 1,200 yen. Outside of morning hours, items like apple pies and quiche are available. Checkout is normally 11 a.m. but can be extended to around 1 p.m.

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