As Asia remains the main destination region for an annually growing number of outbound Chinese tourists, Asian-branded luxury hoteliers in particular are seeing the benefits of this travel boom. Now that Thailand has become one of Chinese tourists’ most-visited destinations, Thai resort and hotel company Anantara is ramping up its China marketing efforts as well as China expansion to maximize the benefits of a growing Chinese interest in resort and leisure travel.
Now Chinese travelers’ fourth most-visited destination in the world after Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea, Thailand has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of China’s outbound tourism boom. As a result, hotelier Anantara has expanded its amenities for Chinese tourists in Thailand while expanding across Asian tourism hotspots, including key burgeoning mainland China resort destinations.
At Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa in Thailand’s most popular beach destination, “China has been our main feeder market, representing about 16 percent in 2014,” according to the resort’s general manager Andy Kunz. “China is the second-largest source market and has shown a sustained five-year growth pattern,” he says, adding that “we expect this to continue over the next five years, most likely becoming the single most important source market for Phuket.”
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, “the Chinese market will definitely be one of the most important markets for us in the coming years,” says Nikolaus Priesnitz, the general manager of Anantara Bangkok Riverside, in an interview with Jing Daily. Located on the bank of the Chao Phraya River with an “urban resort” concept, the Anantara Bangkok Riverside has seen significant growth in Chinese visitor numbers in recent years, according to Priesnitz. Featuring traditional dance performances, a spa, sports and leisure facilities, an outdoor garden that works as a wedding venue, a Thai cooking school, multiple dining and bar options, and a special fleet of its own boats that provide dinner cruises and overnight river trips to tourist destinations outside the city, the hotel is focused mainly on leisure travelers and has been especially popular with Chinese families.
In order to appeal to Chinese travelers, the Thai hotel brand has been quick to focus on offering Chinese-language services at its locations across Asia. Its high-tech handheld device called “The Handy” placed in all guest rooms is available in Chinese, and offers free international calls, free internet, and tourism information. The company also recruits Chinese-speaking staff through Chinese universities, institutions, and hospitality colleges.
In terms of reaching Chinese tourists through marketing efforts, Priesnitz says that Anantara has been “implementing multiple methods with a mix of integrated marketing strategies to reach out to our Chinese tourists.” This includes marketing through Chinese social media, TV channels, editorial media, working with KOLs and bloggers, and launching partnerships with Chinese tourism boards and organizations. Anantara and its parent company Minor have “a strong representation in China,” says Kunz, “with global sales offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou.” The company has also increased its visibility in China through working closely with Chinese online travel booking sites including Ctrip, Qunar, and Zanadu, and advertises extensively with Baidu’s ad program.
The company has also focused on China as a key expansion market, opening resorts in Sanya, Xishuangbanna, and Emei in recent years. According to Preistnitz, Anantara has been working on corporate social responsibility initiatives at these locations to boost its presence in the local communities and cater to Chinese consumers’ growing demand for CSR.
The main key for luxury hospitality brands like Anantara is a growing Chinese demand for high-end accommodations and individual travel instead of tour group travel that involves skimping on accommodations and splurging mainly on shopping. As these low-budget group tours have poured into Thailand and the behavior of less-experienced Chinese travelers has tested the patience of locals, Thailand’s government has been pushing to attract more high-end Chinese travelers. The deputy director of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau recently said that Thailand is expecting more upscale Chinese travelers as it makes efforts to attract a higher-spending contingent.
Anantara is optimistic about the future potential of this luxury spending group. “There are many affluent Chinese who have become accustomed to upscale traveling and are confident with the choices they make and where the expectations are high when traveling,” says Preistnitz, who says that the hotel anticipates “an influx of upscale Chinese travelers into Thailand in the not-too-distant future.”
According to Preistnitz, the key for Anantara in the future will be appealing to this affluent group. “Chinese travelers become more experienced and confident in exploring amazing countries, such as Thailand, on their own,” he says. “Evident to attracting the Chinese travelers is that destinations are become more aware and prepared to deliver on expectations.”