Tokyo will be short an estimated 14,000 hotel rooms each day of the 2020 Olympics, and the city is scrambling to find alternatives for the flood of visitors

Luxury cruise ships will serve as temporary hotels to offset the Tokyo hotel shortage during the Olympics.

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Luxury cruise ships will serve as temporary hotels to offset the Tokyo hotel shortage during the Olympics.
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BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

An estimated 10 million visitors are expected to descend on Tokyo next summer for the 2020 Olympics. But the Japanese capital might not have room for them all.

The city is facing a hotel room shortage of an estimated 14,000 rooms each day of the Olympics, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, leaving the city scrambling to find alternatives to house millions of tourists.

This will be the fourth time Tokyo has hosted the Olympics, starting with the Summer Games of 1964. It also put on the Winter Games in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998. In 2020, more than 11,000 athletes will compete in 33 sports around Tokyo, including in revamped venues used in the 1964 Games.

Tokyo is rushing to build new luxury hotels ahead of the Olympics – but it may still not be enough

Developers have been rushing to build new luxury hotels in Tokyo in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, The Wall Street Journal reported. But the city still has “very few luxury hotels” when compared to cities like New York City and Tokyo, Miwako Date, CEO of real-estate developer Mori Trust Co., told the Journal.

Tokyo’s second Four Seasons is set to open by next summer, according to the Journal, but bookings won’t be available until early 2020. And while one of legendary hotelier Ian Schrager’s Edition hotels was also expected to be completed in Tokyo’s Ginza district by the summer of 2020, it’s now expected to open sometime in 2021, according to the website.

Many luxury hotels in Tokyo like Hotel Okura are already fully booked for the 2020 Olympics.

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Many luxury hotels in Tokyo like Hotel Okura are already fully booked for the 2020 Olympics.
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KARYN NISHIMURA/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the boom in luxury hotel projects in Tokyo in preparation for the games, many high-end hotels are already fully booked. The Shangri-La, the newly renovated Hotel Okura, the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Imperial Hotel are already sold out for the dates of the Olympics with almost eight months to go.

Even when it comes to mid-range and budget hotels and Airbnbs, prices are skyrocketing for the dwindling remaining listings.

According to Booking.com, a search engine for hotels and apartment rentals, 89% of Tokyo accommodations were already booked for the dates of the Olympics as of November 2019. The cheapest option available was in a hostel, where a bed in a six-bedroom dormitory costs $82 per night for those dates.

And on Airbnb, the average nightly price for the dates of the Olympics was $837.

Even Tokyo's famously affordable capsule hotels are getting pricier.

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Even Tokyo’s famously affordable capsule hotels are getting pricier.
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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Even Japan’s famously cheap capsule hotels, which can cost as little as $20 per night, are charging up to $150 a night during the Olympics, according to the Washington Post.

Luxury cruise ships will become temporary floating hotels for Olympics tourists to offset the hotel room shortage

Some luxury cruise liners will serve as temporary hotels throughout the Olympics, the South China Morning Post reported.

Kaori Mori, head of branding for JTB, the largest travel agency in Japan, told the Post that the move is “an innovative and relatively easy solution” to the lodging shortage during the games.

“We have started to sell packages to travel agents and the reaction has been very positive,” Mori told the Post. “They are getting a lot of inquiries, in part because it is going to be totally different to staying in a hotel. A lot of people like the idea because they’re getting the experience of a cruise at the same time as be able to attend the Olympics.”

tokyo cruise ship

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Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to the Post, the Sun Princess cruise liner will be moored in Yokohama, a major port in the Tokyo metro area that’s less than 30 minutes from the city by train, for the duration of the Olympics. Nightly rates will start at about $270 and go up to about $5,500 for the most luxurious suites.

It’s not the first time cruise ships have filled in for hotels during the Olympics. A 4,000-passenger Norwegian Cruise Line ship docked in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 games, the same ship that served as a floating hotel in New York harbor for the 2014 Super Bowl.

Airbnb has been tapped to provide extra lodging in a special partnership with the Olympics

In November, Airbnb scored a nine-year sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help counterbalance the costs of hosting the massive event.

The deal will create hundreds of thousands of new Airbnb hosts as well as new “Olympian Experiences” with athletes as part of Airbnb Experiences, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a tweet.

A guest at a rental room in Tokyo.

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A guest at a rental room in Tokyo.
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TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

The partnership will not replace the Olympic village but will be based on a guarantee of accommodation for visitors, families of athletes, and officials, IOC President Thomas Bach said at a London event.

The deal covers five Olympics and Paralympics over the next nine years, including the Tokyo games, Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, Milan 2026, and LA 2028 winter and summer games.