China is playing an increasingly crucial role in the business and expansion plans of luxury hotel chains. But few of those companies are as committed to touting their brand to Chinese travelers as passionately as the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which is enjoying double-digit revenue growth with this clientele. The Toronto-based chain is taking the unusual step of bringing its elaborate “pop-up pop-down” event to Hong Kong in March, timing the sumptuous affair to coincide with the influential Art Basel Hong Kong art fair.
An experiential extravaganza of sorts, these Pop Downs bring Four Seasons chefs, bartenders and artists to one of its worldwide properties for a red carpet-style soiree. The latest edition rolled out during last week’s Art Basel Miami Beach art fair and showcased a global roster of the company’s stars, including Michelin-starred Chefs Daniel Boulud and Mauro Colagreco, who served up their creations for art lovers and hotel clients on a 312-foot superyacht, Kismet.
Jing Daily caught up with Rainer Stampfer, president of hotel operations of Four Seasons Asia-Pacific, to discuss the hotel chain’s overall strategy for attracting this market, and how his company keeps up with this important — yet quickly evolving — segment.
How important are Chinese travelers to the Four Seasons?
China is our second-largest source market. Revenue from Chinese travelers has developed steadily with double-digit growth in revenue in recent years.
Is that only within the mainland?
Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen are three of our most popular destinations with Chinese travelers, for both business and leisure. But some of our hotels outside of China have seen as much as a 60 percent year-on-year increase in revenue from Chinese travelers. London, Dubai, Istanbul, Seoul, Kyoto, Tokyo, the Maldives, and Langkawi have all seen healthy growth from Chinese travelers.
Overall, how is the Four Seasons brand adapting to the booming Chinese outbound tourist market?
One of the ways we have adapted is to evolve our digital touch points to fit a mobile-first world in which Chinese consumers lead the way.
Earlier this year, we launched a new look to FourSeasons.com, specifically designed to be mobile friendly, intuitive, and highly visual.
You are using WeChat?
Four Seasons Chat [the company’s social media unit] was launched last year to meet the needs of modern travelers where social media and chat are an intrinsic part of their digital interactions. Four Seasons Chat allows guests to access Four Seasons team members and service in over 100 languages at their convenience, anytime, anywhere, resulting in a seamless travel experience. Chinese travelers typically “chat” with our hotels and resorts through WeChat or the Four Seasons App.
Our chat is powered by real people at our hotels and not by chatbots, ensuring that we retain the human connection that is so important to a guest’s experience at Four Seasons and that our style of service is never compromised.
Have you seen a shift in where Chinese travelers are going?
Over time, we have noticed that interest has extended beyond gateway cities of the world such as London, Paris, and Los Angeles to more unexpected destinations including Serengeti, Chiang Mai, and Hoi An. With such evolving tastes in travel, there is also a desire for local experiences, and so we continue to focus on developing rich cultural and wellness experiences that are unique to Four Seasons at our properties around the globe. One such example is the exclusive after-hours spa experience including a singing bowl lesson with our singing bowl artist at Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai in Hoi An.
Which travel influencers, tour companies, and online travel agencies are you working with to target Chinese outbound travelers? Why, specifically, did you choose them?
We work with a range of Chinese influencers who are able to both reach our target audience and create quality content for luxury travel. We are privileged to have built a relationship with them over the years and have welcomed them at several of our hotels and resorts.
In addition to working with travel influencers, we also hope to expand the breadth of influencers we work with through our new Envoy by Four Seasons program, which was just announced on 1 November 2018. With this program we are inviting creative storytellers and artists, wherever they are located in the world and regardless of follower size, to work with us.
In terms of online travel agencies, as with all other hotel companies, travelers can also find us on Ctrip.
This interview has been condensed and edited.