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European Commissionerís Sun Soaking Sessions

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-09-08

Continuing our series about the hotels honored by being chosen as hosts of the world leaders in Okinawa for the Group of Eight Summit, this week we focus on the Zanpamiskai Royal Hotel in Yomitan.

The Zanpamiskai Royal Hotel played host to European Commissioner Romano Prodi and 25 European Union officials last month during the Group of Eight Summit. The hotel which mainly caters to mainland Japanese tourists, was originally supposed also to put up an American delegation, the overflow from Bill Clintonís group at the Manza Hotel. The Americans cancelled at the last minute but The Zanpa was able to substitute them with NTT staff. The Tokyo telephone giant was in Okinawa in force before the Summit, upgrading telecommunications links and helping start up the sophisticated, wildly expensive media center in Nago.

The hotel staff had debated whether they should bow when Prodi arrived, but were told by those in charge of preparations that clapping would be appropriate. Prodi was the only top politician to bring his wife to the Group of Eight meeting. As the couple arrived late at night and seemed tired, the welcoming ceremony was kept to a minimum and they were ushered to their room after going through the task of shaking hands with about 40 staff.

H. Iwashita who works for the hotel says he was surprised how much the European Union Commissioner liked sunbathing before his meetings. He didnít realize before the visit how much Europeans liked sunshine. Prodiís sun soaking sessions were however only confined to the pool just outside the picture windows of the ground floor.

He did not go to the beach, a short walk from the hotel and had to be content with a view of the ocean, instead of dipping in it. The sea surrounds the hotel on three sides.

The European officials who prepared the ground for the stay of Commissioner Prodi and his entourage included an ambassador from Tokyo who was served Goya juice. He liked it a lot so the hotel decided to serve to Prodi as well.

The Zanpamiskai Royal Hotel has thirteen floors and 501 rooms. The European Commission delegation occupied four floors, from the ninth to the twelfth. Preparations for their visit included extending rooms, fitting new carpets, and increasing the Zanpaís electricity self-sufficiency. The hotel installed a much bigger generator than it had before, enough to provide half its power needs.

Before last month the Zanpamisaki Royal could not conserve the hot water, which had not been used by its guests during the day. But now it has installed a hot water retaining system that should save it much money.

Iwashita stressed that as the hotel is 12 years old, it was due for an upgrade and that the management does not view its spending in preparation for the Summit as a write-off, but rather an investment for the future. Like other hotels that hosted Group of Eight leaders, the Zanpamisaki Hotel was unable to accommodate ordinary tourists for several days before and during the weekend of the Summit - from July 18 to 23.

The other abnormal feature for the hotel was the presence of 220 police around the hotel to provide security for the important guests. The police were there a month and some of them stayed in the hotel. Iwashita said they did a good job became friends by the time of their departure and he and the staff were sorry to see them go. Some of the entourage that accompanied Prodi came from the Belgian capital Brussels, where the headquarters of the European Union is situated. Others came from Tokyo embassies and as Prodi is Italian, there were also staff from Italy. Like other hoteliers interviewed in this series, Iwashita was surprised by a lack of rigid adherence to formality and protocol in the politicians he was looking after.

As an example of Prodiís unstuffy manner, he said that at the tree planting ceremony attended by G-8 dignitaries, the hotel staff approached him and offered to send him a photograph of the tree, once it had reached a height of three meters. Prodiís response was to say please donít bother. He said his attendance at the ceremony itself was what mattered and that anyway, he would be back on Okinawa as a tourist.

Iwashita said that of all the Group of Eight political leaders, Prodi was the only person to say he liked Okinawa so much he would be coming back for a private visit.

Group of Eight flags fly in the lobby of the Zanpa until the end of September.

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