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Saturday, March 5, 2011

AP Land sees good potential in Niseko

The influx of tourists and investors from around the world, especially Asia and Europe, is set to change the real estate and infrastructure landscape of one of the most popular ski resort destinations in the world, Niseko in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan.

Currently there is still a lack of awareness on the potentials and opportunities there, which explains why it is still a relatively untapped market as far as real estate development and investment is concerned.

According to Asia Pacific Land Bhd (AP Land) joint managing director, Low Su Ming, the pioneer developers from Australia, who are generally small fit outs, have taken more than 10 years to develop Niseko to what it is today.

“The rest of the world are only now beginning to take note of Niseko. As such, properties here are still affordable but it is not so much about the cost of investment but the propensity for the properties to improve in value that is of great interest,” Low tells StarBizWeek.

Low believes Niseko will continue to enjoy growth, adding that investment returns have been growing in recent years, with further capital growth expected.

“Niseko is clearly a world-class ski location, with its real estate still a fraction of the price of other comparable international destinations.

“This place, ranked by Forbes as the second snowiest place on earth and famed for its long ski season (from November to April yearly) and fine powder snow, has seen tourist arrivals doubling every year.

“We see great potential and opportunities in this area. At this moment, demand for accommodation far outpaces supply,” Low says.

AP Land is undertaking its maiden development in Japan – Shiki Niseko comprising 69 units of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom high-end residences with commercial component in the heart of the ski village, known as central Hirafu. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012.

Low says most investors have taken a long-term position and are comfortable to enjoy their asset and ride out any short-term volatility.

LJ Hooker Niseko Resort branch manager Derek Kennewell concurs, saying that if Niseko’s attractions can be elevated to the level of some of the more mature resorts in Europe and North America over the next decade or two, “then we may see big tourism growth numbers, which will drive property investment.”

“Niseko offers something unrivalled in Asia, with access that cannot be beaten by Europe and America. The tourism market here is one of the biggest in the world, and if the bullet train makes it to Niseko in the coming decades it will bring a massive influx of domestic tourists,” he says.

He adds that Niseko is growing organically at its own pace.

“Many still think of Niseko as an anomaly, and are waiting for it to dry up as it did in the Japanese Bubble era in the late 80s and early 90s leading to the ‘lost decade’.”

“In actual fact, we are under-supplied when it comes to commercial premises, and more shopping facilities will bring a new level of tourists to the area.

“No doubt this will take time to manifest,” he says.

In recent years, big property players from Hong Kong and Malaysia are making their presence felt in Niseko with land and whole villages exchanging hands.

Their plan is to cater to the growing affluence in various Asian markets and higher demand for more lifestyle properties in Niseko.

Hong Kong’s PCCW Ltd has planned to add 14,000 beds in Hanazono over the coming decade, including a couple of hotels and village shops and services.

Besides APL, another Malaysian corporation, YTL Corp’s hospitality arm YTL Hotels & Properties Sdn Bhd has last April purchased Niseko Village located at the southeastern foothills of Mt Niseko An’nupuri.

Kennewell says that with the Chinese yuan rising steadily against the greenback in the past several years, China represents a huge market opportunity as it is now much cheaper to buy a property in Japan.

On what are the missing links in the Niseko tourism and real estate landscape now, he says: “Boutique shops, and personal services.

“There is also a need for more cultural and international events to attract guests all through the year, though these are improving year on year,” he adds.

By The Star

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