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We've set up this space where members of the Little Tokyo community could share information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions about the Little Tokyo neighborhood, it's people, politics, culture/history, businesses, and events.

11/23/2010

Don't Panic!: Doubletree may help, not hurt Little Tokyo

The Kyoto Grand Hotel and Weller Court, with the Onizuka memorial in front
Recent reports that the Kyoto Grand could become a Doubletree may sound like bad news for Little Tokyo.
After all, Little Tokyo has long thrived on tourist business from Japan.  And Japan Inc. has traditionally depended on the landmark hotel which formerly went by the name "New Otani."

It was a hard blow when New Otani decided that they no longer wanted to be part of Little Tokyo.

Still, under 3D Investments, the rebadged Kyoto Grand has done okay.  They've made renovations, while maintaining the Japanese flavor of the place.  The Japanese garden still looks pretty good. Weller Court looks about the same as ever. As long as Kinokuniya is still selling overpriced manga to Japanese and increasingly American otaku, as long as Curry House is still making its uniquely-Japanese curry katsu spaghetti, then I know all is right with the world.

Weller Court
Still, Doubletree is a new element being thrown into Little Tokyo's "resurgent but still struggling (but who isn't?)" economy. What can we expect:

First of all, assume for the time being that no Japanese hotel chain is going to swoop in and rescue the New Otani/ Kyoto Grand.  If New Otani isn't interested for whatever reason, then Prince isn't going to be interested either (Prince owns a few resorts in Hawaii, but that's the extent of their American operations).

Secondly, do not assume that "big American corporation" means not Japanese. Hotel Tomo, a ridiculously over-the-top J-Pop/ anime-esque theme hotel in Japantown, San Francisco, is not owned by Japanese; it is part of the Best Western hotel chain. Japantown's other major (non-Japanese) hotel, the Hotel Kabuki, maintains a lovely Japanese garden and Japanese aesthetics oozes from every inch of the hotel.

Hilton (which Doubletree is a branch of) is not stupid. The heiress may be, but not the hotel chain.  They would not be moving into Little Tokyo if they did not think that Little Tokyo was a good investment.
And the Kyoto Grand is not a blank slate. It has undergone some recent renovations, and it is an established player in an established community with deep ties to Japan. Local community leaders have already made it clear — just as they made it clear to 3D Investments when they moved in — that we want Little Tokyo to remain Little Tokyo.

And really, what purpose would it serve to make changes? What what be their motivation ("This hotel looks too good, we're going to spend a lot of money to make it suck")?

Inside the Kyoto Grand

As a Doubletree, the Kyoto Grand will have full acccess to Hilton's reservations system and Hilton's marketing machine. That alone will make a huge, positive difference for the hotel.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we can relax. We still need to work together with Hilton/ Doubletree to make sure that this hotel remains an asset which contributes to the community, and not a faceless giant.
However,  I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.