Exclusive Interview with Hard Rock Japan CEO Ed Tracy on Japan IR/Casino Bid

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Ed Tracy is the CEO of Hard Rock Japan, a subsidiary of hotel, casino, and café chain giant Hard Rock International created to support the company’s bid to operate an Integrated Resort in Japan.

Mr. Tracy has years of experience in the gaming and hospitality industries in the Asia-Pacific region and extensive knowledge of the Integrated Resort concept. Previously, he was at the helm of Sands China, the Asian division of Las Vegas Sands and one of the world’s largest casino companies by revenue.

With the Japanese government working on the second piece of legislation of a two-phase gaming and Integrated Resort legalization process, Mr. Tracy agreed to answer our questions about Hard Rock’s plans in Japan.

What are Hard Rock’s preferred locations for an Integrated Resort? How is the IR concept received by Japan’s residents? And in what way will the company’s bid to operate an IR in Japan differ from that of its competitors? Mr. Tracy provided detailed answers to these and many more questions.

How will Integrated Resorts improve Japan’s tourism product? What are the niches the country needs to fill in order to present an even more attractive product to international visitors?

The Integrated Resort initiative that the Japanese Government envisions is a “gateway to Japan.” At Hard Rock, we plan to create a world-class resort with numerous amenities for both Japanese and international visitors, including many Japanese-inspired activities, which will create the desire to visit other areas of the country. The high-tech Japan Gateway attraction with Japanese-inspired activities will allow both domestic and foreign visitors to “experience” many places in Japan and will allow them to make reservations and put together tour packages on location for concurrent or subsequent trips to the country. As such, we hope to build a large base of returning travelers to Japan.

Japan is known for its excellent international cuisine, and we plan to include several globally-known dining experiences for the well-travelled foodie. In addition to the local fare Japan is known for, Hard Rock will offer European and other Asian cuisines, and potentially fusion specialties. Hard Rock has partnered with Paco Roncero, Michelin star chef, who created the world’s most immersive, and expensive, dining experience in the world at Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza and we plan to bring experiences like that to this integrated resort.

Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions (MICE) events will also be a large focus for the proposed IR and visitorship to Japan. Group travel for business and leisure alike has been a mainstay and catalyst to the phenomenal growth of the tourist industry, and Hard Rock is dedicated to creating a resort that will cater to the diverse needs of today’s traveler – from the business executive to the multigenerational family. Not only can Hard Rock provide a first-class meeting experience, but we can also bring unmatched entertainment for which the brand is known with more than 30,000 live events each year at our venues. With that in mind, we look forward to bringing top tier entertainers to the property year-round.

How is the ‘Integrated Resort’ concept received in Japan? Do people have enough understanding of what it actually involves?

We’ve made a lot of progress in the market to educate the Japanese people, but much still needs to be done. For example, there seems to be a miscommunication that an Integrated Resort is nothing more than a destination casino, and we disagree. While the casino may be a part of the IR concept, it is only a small part.

The larger, more important, aspect of a unique Japanese IR is how we can bring unparalleled experiences to the visitors and international experiences for the Japanese customer. We also want it to be a multi-generational experience. Whether it’s a young couple with children, or a seasoned international traveler, we want to provide an oasis, allowing travelers the ability to relax, try new things and new cultures, and most of all receive the VIP Hard Rock treatment. Read More

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