With international travel flat, how do China’s luxury hotels appeal to locals? | Tech US News

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The hospitality industry has been one of the most depressed sectors in China since COVID-19 hit. According to 2021 report on the development of China’s hotel industry, 2020 saw the closure of 59,000 hotels on the mainland. The country’s dynamic policy against COVID-19 has made even domestic travel onerous, with different provinces and cities setting their own rules that often include a litany of testing and quarantine requirements.

Travel and fashion influencer Will Wang witnessed the impact firsthand. “The hotel industry fell into a ‘self-help mania’ as the pandemic began to worsen in 2020,” he says. Jing Daily. “Even some of the premium hotels started offering super affordable pre-sale vouchers and selling these vouchers via live streaming. Then there was a tipping point as domestic travel picked up in 2021.”

This upturn was obvious in popular destinations such as Hainan’s Sanya, “where hotel revenues have even surpassed pre-pandemic levels,” he adds. In 2021 and early 2022, luxury brands rushed to launch permanent stores in duty-free malls and open pop-up stores in Hainan. Dior’s pop-up “Dior Vibe” at The Edition Hotel in Sanya was a highlight, bringing significant traffic to the grounds.

However, as unexpected lockdowns can now happen anywhere in China, brands, hotels and tourists have become more cautious. Three years after the start of the pandemic, the “freedom of travel” of Chinese tourists appears to be an illusion. How can hotel brands operating there navigate this new normal?

Thematic stays

During the seven-day Golden Week holiday, short-haul holidays accounted for 65 per cent of bookings on online travel platforms, while travel spend per person by local (or surrounding area) tourists increased by almost 30 percent year-on-year. to the online travel agency Trip.com. Meanwhile, a growing number of tourists see hotels as “destinations” rather than simple accommodations. They look forward to a unique vacation spot that can entertain them without leaving the hotel. As staycations grow in popularity in China, these playful experiences have become important to customers.

Like Trip.com report shows, as of September 2022, stays that accompanied activities such as esports and camping saw year-over-year increases of 50 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Early adopters such as Shangri-La Group announced their esports-themed hotel rooms in partnership with Tencent Games and Tencent Esports in June 2021. Early hotels to feature these include the Kerry Hotel in Beijing and the Pudong District of Shanghai, as well as the Shangri-La. hotel in Xi’an, Chengdu and Haikou. In addition to integrating game-related designs and decorations in the room, hotels have launched a series of online and offline events and offered incentives such as complimentary virtual gifts in games.

In 2021, Shangri-La Group launched a series of unique theme rooms in five pilot locations in China in partnership with Tencent Games. Photo: Shangri-La Group

In 2020, Waldorf Astoria Beijing and Aston Martin teamed up to launch the “Urban Glamping Plan”, offering guests unique camping experiences in the city. The campaign was updated in 2021 with the introduction of South African themed glamping suites, featuring cozy and striking furnishings. Guests could also enjoy a deluxe South African in-room dining experience.

In-depth local cultural tours

When the scope of the trip is limited, the potential of each trip is worth exploring to the fullest, and many locals prefer hotels that allow them to immerse themselves in the local culture. Sun Nan from Shanghai is a fan of luxury weekend stays: “For trips to the countryside, I prefer to get close to nature and experience local customs. So hotels that allow me to explore domestic culture are attractive to me.”

Capella Shanghai hires experts in Shanghai culture and history to offer guests a variety of tailor-made experiences, such as bicycle tours around the city. Photo: Capella Shanghai

Faced with this growing demand, the main hotels have taken advantage of their geographical advantages to introduce in-depth cultural tours. Capella Shanghai, for example, hires experts in Shanghai culture and history to offer guests a variety of tailored experiences, such as city bike tours and tastings at boutique restaurants. Similarly, the Shanghai JW Marriott Hotel in Tomorrow Square, located near various cultural and historical sites, has collaborated with the Shanghai Museum Institute to launch its “Family by JW” campaign, offering on-site history classes.

Multidimensional collaborations

While several brand collaborations have offered a glimmer of hope for hotels in China, guests with plenty of free time and spending power still make up a small but coveted group. Rosewood Beijing attracts local guests with its diverse dining options and state-of-the-art health and fitness facilities. The hotel’s executive lounge, Manor Club, has partnered with “The Players Club”, a 27-hole championship golf course and private club in Beijing, to launch a VIP card that allows holders to enjoy membership of both . In addition to Rosewood Beijing’s many exclusive offers, such as one-year access to the Manor Club, one night’s stay in a deluxe room, access to the Sense Spa and discounts at the hotel’s restaurants, cardholders can enjoy a one-year social membership for The Players Club.

Rosewood Beijing’s Manor Club executive lounge has teamed up with The Players Club. Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Beijing

The pandemic has given new impetus to transformation and innovation in the hospitality industry despite the chaos of sudden lockdowns. During October’s Golden Week holiday, thanks to Beijing’s call for people to “stay in the city for the holidays”, holidaymakers flocked to its suburbs and sent prices at local establishments soaring. “Hotels have taken advantage of local short trips as a temporary measure to help with the current challenges,” explains Wang.

Whether it’s diversifying the accommodation experience or maximizing added value, China’s luxury hotels have certainly been getting creative. That said, some of these efforts tend toward sameness. There is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to luxury hospitality groups catering to their sophisticated domestic customers who expect an authentic, playful and distinctive experience.

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