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San Japan 8-bit review part one: Grand Hyatt-gate

San Japan continues to not only surprise me, but every single attendee every single year. Be it the first year that the convention moved into the Henry B Gonzalez Convention center/Grand Hyatt to legendary video game composer/rock star Akira Yamaoka performing with his band, every single year of San Japan was memorable. This year was no exception, except for a few miss steps that the staff had no control of. Before we get to what I thought was good/bad/needs improvement about San Japan 8-bit this review will be split into two parts. So with that said, let’s address the giant anime elephant in the room: the reveal of the Grand Hyatt’s change of room policy weeks before the con.

Grand Hyatt-gate

Ever since San Japan first relocated to the Grand Hyatt and HBG Covention Center (to be referred to as convention center for duration of review) back in 2012, San Japan saw an increase of attendance thanks to the added room of the convention center and hotel space. San Japan has slowly increased its attendance with every year following. In addition to an increase of attendance, an increase of foot traffic going into the Hyatt increased as well due to San Japan extending its programming into the hotel. This created a problem that most anime conventions shared: increased elevator wait times. However due to having panels and other programs at the Hyatt, there was no down time for the elevators. This caused the areas where the elevators are located to be heavily congested with con goers, cosplayers with bulky outfits, and non-con visitors staying at the Hyatt.Usually one room can hold up to four to six people, depending if a double sized or a double King sized is reserved. But some attendees tend to room share and will often go over the recommended number and stuff as many people in a room as they can in order to save money. The Hyatt has generally over looked this until an incident last year where water flooded the lower maintenance areas of the hotel. This caused wait times to increase from a 10 to 15 minuet wait to a staggering hour long. This was one of the major complaints that both con goers and regular guest had.

To combat this for San Japan 8-bit, the Grand Hyatt decided to actually enforce their room limit to four people a room by restricting elevator usage to only those who are staying at the Hyatt. Con goers who were staying at the Hyatt were given wrist bands to allow them access to the elevators that reach hotel rooms. Those who didn’t have wrist bands would only have access to the designated areas that San Japan was assigned to and not to the hotel rooms. Now on paper this sounds pretty reasonable and the Hyatt is within their power to make such changes in order to ensure the safety of all of its guests. However this is where the problem/controversy comes in. The Grand Hyatt did not inform those who will be saying at the hotel for San Japan 8-bit until the con was less than three weeks away. There were many con attendees that were angry at the fact that the Hyatt had failed to notify them in advance so so that they could make other arrangements in a timely matter, not three week prior to the con. This sent some rushing to find alternate lodging in a time where other hotel blocks that San Japan had reserved from other hotels started to fill up. While many did find other hotels to stay in during the con, this had left a bad taste in their mouths, some even blaming the San Japan organizers for failing to notify in advance. So are the organizers of San Japan to blame? Was it a ploy for the Hyatt to try to squeeze as much money as they can out of con goers? My answer: no.

Yes it was a “shitty” move for the Grand Hyatt to change the policy without advance notice, but it was in response to guests, both con and non-con, complaining about elevator wait times. They are well withing their right to change polices in order to keep the guests safe. Should have they let guests know about the policy change months in advance? Yes they should have. In fact they should have told the San Japan organizers about policy change so that they could relay the message to its attendees. Speaking of which, are the San Japan organizers to blame for this whole fiasco? No not entirely. From what has been revealed by San Japan, they were informed the same week emails from the Hyatt were being sent out to guests that have reserved rooms there and were being informed about policy changes. My guess is that San Japan was about to inform everyone about the policy change in a more orderly fashion, but once a screen shot of the email appeared on the San Japan Group page, a torrent of questions flooded in. Sides were being drawn. This was though to be the one that gives San Japan its first bad year. But it wasn’t. In fact only a small percent of hotel block at the Grand Hyatt was loss, and were quickly filled. Most people found other places to stay and everyone had a relatively a good time. I do think that San Japan should be a bit more open about any policy changes that may happen, be it hotel or convention center. People have a right to know in a timely, most preferably early, manner about these changes so that they can make any necessary changes.

To wrap this up, while neither party (San Japan and Grand Hyatt) is at fault, the policy changes should have been made public months in advance instead of mere weeks before the con. I  believe most of the anger came from the attendees came from not being told ahead of time and that is understandable> But in the end it seemed that everyone managed to have a great time. Tune in for part two as we now take a look at the actual convention and see what San Japan had to offer this year.

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