Meliá’s New China Partnership A Two-Way Street

Partnership Covers Expansion Efforts In Europe And China

Gran Melia Shanghai

Last week, the Spanish hospitality group Meliá Hotels International signed a strategic agreement with Chinese real estate developer Greenland Group to join forces in the pursuit of greater international growth. As part of the deal, the Greenland Group will reportedly launch its first urban hotel brand in Europe, a re-branded and redesigned Meliá hotel in the German business hub Frankfurt, a frequent destination for Chinese business travelers. Looking further down the road, the Greenland Group has indicated that it intends to launch a new hotel chain in Europe oriented to Chinese tourists.

Via their new partnership, Meliá and the Greenland Group also plan to cooperate closely on staff training, development and management innovation efforts, as well as branding and marketing strategies, as both work to raise brand awareness outside of their home markets.

While this Sino-Spanish hospitality collaboration may seem to come out of the blue, it’s actually not that surprising. The Meliá Group made its first appearance on the Chinese high-end hotel market in 2010 with the opening of the Grand Meliá Hotel in Shanghai’s Pudong district. In China, Meliá has intensified its efforts to link its name with high-end service, with its five-star properties promoting initiatives like the “Red Glove” service, a personalized luxury perk available only at a few Meliá hotels worldwide. Currently, the group is wrapping up work on its Gran Meliá Xi’an and Meliá Chongqing properties, following the trend of major global hoteliers targeting China’s emerging second- and third-tier cities.

Considering its increasing focus on the China market, Meliá’s deal with the Greenland Group isn’t limited to helping the latter dig into Europe. In China, Meliá and Greenland plan to operate two new hotels in Tianjin and Jinan under the Meliá name, while the Spanish company may also bring more brands in its portfolio — such as Innside and Paradisus Resorts — to China. This expansion isn’t limited to catering to China’s increasingly travel-hungry middle-class within the country, however, as Meliá has indicated recently that it is working to introduce more culturally aware services to Chinese customers worldwide, and sees its presence in mainland China as key to success in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

Rendering of the Greenland Group's Suzhou Center, designed by SOM

One of mainland China’s largest real estate developers, the Greenland Group is among the first Chinese players to target the European hospitality segment, which has become increasingly aware of the growing presence of Chinese tourists and business travelers in recent years. As Chinese outbound travel to Europe remains in its early stages, Greenland apparently thinks now is the time to take on Europe, tailoring its marketing and services to Chinese guests.

In many ways, the partnership between Meliá and the Greenland Group is less a novelty and more of an indication of what’s to come in the global hospitality industry. In mainland China in particular, European and Chinese hoteliers have worked together closely for years, as the former has had to partner with the latter to enter and expand in the China market. One of the most high-profile of these recent partnerships is last year’s tie-up between Shanghai-based Jin Jiang group — which is closely associated with the Greenland Group — and France’s Louvre Hotels Group.

Covering 15 Campanile hotels in the five French cities most popular among Chinese outbound travelers (Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice) and 15 Jin Jiang Inn hotels in the three Chinese cities most often visited by French tourists (Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing), the partnership includes a shared booking system and tailor-made services for Chinese customers in France as well as French customers in China.

Jin Jiang’s long-term expansion plans aren’t limited to France, however, as the Group has indicated that it hopes to eventually open a hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland — an increasingly popular destination for big-spending, luxury watch-obsessed Chinese tourists.

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