A friend of mine dropped me a question about western versus local/non-branded hotels in Japan and whether you could save quite a bit by going local.
Here’s an email from the reader:
While you have been in Japan, I’m curious to know if you tried any of the local or smaller hotel chains?
Knowing They are generally high in quality yet reasonably priced I’m curious if you find value there versus the large chains were you often get perks like lounge access, elite benefits, late check out, etc.. perhaps Japan is an exception, but it sounds like a place where you can do pretty well and save money at some of these smaller or unbranded hotels.
This is an excellent question with which I often struggle with, especially in Japan.
There is usually a wide price discrepancy between international chains (Hilton, IHG, Marriott & Accor) and their local mid-market/budget counterparts such as APA, Washington, Dormy Inn, Prince, and Tokyu Stay.
I would say that it depends on how long I plan to stay at the hotel.
If I have a late flight coming in or early flight out, I tend to stay the first/last night at a cheaper hotel that often has self-service laundry available too (sometimes even inside the room). I cannot stay for too long at the select-service property, however, as I usually do utilize services.
You have to keep in mind when booking non-western hotels that Japanese ones are rigorous on the number of guests you book regardless of the room type. Double rooms booked for single won’t allow two guests (I run to this problem once as my Orbitz preference is set to just one).
Also, the rooms tend to be well kept but small. What may well be adequate space for two Japanese may not fit two westerners comfortably.
There are smaller cities in Japan that don’t have western full-service hotels or perhaps only Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza hotel run by ANA (that are really Japanese hotels only somewhat branded under HI/CP flags).
Right now, the prices in Japan are reasonable. I have previously run into a situation in Shinjuku, where Hyatt or Hilton were asking $300 for the night (tax & service included). At the same time, I could get the perfectly acceptable Tokyo Stay couple of hundred meters away for $70. It is tough to justify paying quadruple prices regardless of the status benefits provided.
How do you make the decision when to go for an international branded experience versus local chain/independent?