Team Talk #1: Howard Ho [CEO]

This is the first in a series of interviews that covers how Section L came to be and shares what makes working here fun and truly exceptional. 

1. When was Section L founded?

We founded Section L in 2020 with the intention to build a leading, Made-in-Japan hospitality brand.  We were firm believers in the potential of Japan as a top destination, and devoted ourselves to the concept of apartment-style accommodations.  We opened our first apartment-hotel, Section L Ginza East, in July 2020 and have since grown to a total of 9 locations across Tokyo.  By the end of 2023, we had hosted more than 100,000 guests.

My three co-founders and I worked in different parts of the industry, with experience in real estate development, asset management, operations and marketing.  We each bring different perspectives and skill sets, but we share the ambition of creating a lasting hospitality company. 

2. Why did you choose to focus on upscale long-stay accommodations?

Global travelers are starting to stay overseas for a longer time, thanks to the ability to work remotely.  According to a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency, the average length of stay for tourists visiting Japan in 2023 was 10 nights (6 nights in Tokyo).  The existing supply of apartment hotels meets this demand at a basic level, with larger rooms and extended-stay amenities.  However, we are building a long-term competitive advantage through purposeful design, dependable service, and a strong sense of community among our customers and team members.

As travelers become increasingly sophisticated, they seek flexible accommodations that can be molded to their lifestyle.  They also crave more connection to the local neighborhood and to other travelers.  We believe that the best solution involves extended-stay hotels with a curated community of locals and travelers.  We are also finding that this operating model outperforms standard hotels, in terms of gross operating margin and investment returns.

3. Could you share more about the detailed features of the apartment-hotels?

Each room is equipped with a kitchen, washing machine, dining area, and a dedicated workspace. Additionally, we host weekly happy hours where guests get to mingle and enjoy complimentary drinks. It’s an opportunity not only for guests to meet other guests but also to interact casually with our diverse team of hospitality professionals. In addition to this, we also have an app called InterSection where guests can conveniently message our staff, chat with other guests if they wish to, and check out events going on around Tokyo.

4. Why do you consider community to be so important?

Having lived and worked in different places, it’s hard for me to pinpoint where “home” truly is. Be it Canada, the US, Hong Kong, Japan, my feeling of belonging came entirely from the people that I encontered and befriended. This is the feeling that this feeling that we at Section L strive to provide to both our teammates and guests, no matter where they are from.

5. What’s important to know for those who are interested in joining Section L?

As a young company, Section L only grows if we, the team members, do.  A career at Section L is best experienced with a sense of ownership over your own and the company’s destiny, a strong growth mindset, and determination to leave a positive impact for our customers and colleagues. By joining Section L, you’ll be working with a diverse team comprised of over 22 nationalities (and growing). We have about 60 team members now and are actively seeking more people to join our quest to become the premier Made-in-Japan hospitality brand. Please check out our latest job openings here.