The future of hotels in Mainland China

May 14, 2014 / By

Recent statistics of global travel trends project that the number of outbound Mainland Chinese tourists will double from an estimated 100 million in 2013 to 200 million by 2020. This new emerging class of vacationer continues to frequent nearby Hong Kong and Macau for quick getaways and shopping tours, but are also increasingly growing adventurous, seeking holiday destinations further afield in Europe and North America.

However, this strong growth is not limited to just outbound. The domestic market is also gaining momentum. ‘Golden Week’ – the 7-day national holiday results in millions of Mainland Chinese traveling nationwide every year.

Mainland China is a key expansion proposition in Asia Pacific for many international hotel chains who are vying to establish a foothold in what is the region’s single largest market. JLL estimates that over 400,000 rooms across 1,500 projects – 75% of total Asia Pacific supply – is under construction or proposed. These new international brands must ‘localise’ for the highly competitive Chinese market.

International hotel chains are adapting their services to suit unique Chinese preferences. Hotel operator Accor has focused on Mainland China as it re-engineered its Grand Mercure brand to tailor to the needs of the wealthy Chinese traveler. Known in Chinese as ‘Mei Jue’, the upscale hotels are highly influenced by Chinese design and each property is tailored to the characteristics of the Chinese city in which it operates. It’s not just the grand designs that make a brand distinctly ‘Chinese’. Grand Mercure, for example, caters to Chinese palates by offering a 24-hour congee menu.

Besides localising its existing brands, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the largest international hotel operators in the country, has developed a new luxury hotel concept designed specifically for Chinese guests. Hualuxe – which uses the Chinese word “Hua” for majestic and in English “luxe” for luxury – will debut this year. Hualuxe will offer guests a more traditional experience based on four priorities that Chinese travellers are said to require: Chinese etiquette, rejuvenation, status recognition, and space for social interaction.

In the competitive international hotel market a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work. In a world where cross-cultural influences affect even the biggest brands, being responsive to changes in consumer preferences could prove to be the difference between success and failure. As hotel operators continue to seek opportunities throughout Mainland China, we can expect global brands entering the market with innovative ways to identify with the local culture. And we can also be sure to bid farewell to the few who fail to localise.

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