With an eye on China’s rising incomes, luxury hotel companies are expanding across China at lightning-fast speed with a specific focus on Chinese visitors. China is far from the only locale where hoteliers are opening up shop with Chinese travelers specifically in mind, however, as a rising number of outbound Chinese tourists boosts retail and hospitality revenue in destinations across the globe.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Starwood CEO Frits Van Paasschen, Chinese travelers’ choice of locations to visit has had a significant impact on where the major global hotel chain opens its new luxury hotels:
WSJ: How have Chinese travel patterns changed your expansion plans outside of China?
Mr. Van Paasschen: For Asia Pacific we have more than 200 hotels in the pipeline, 70 expanding beyond China on an existing base of around 132. That’ll include expansion everywhere from India to Australia, where we’re seeing the largest growth in a decade due to Chinese travelers.
We’re seeing growth in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean and the Emirates, but there are other places now where we’ll be expanding. As more travelers begin to break from tour groups, there is a high percentage of people who are increasingly adventurous, so we’re looking at Sri Lanka as being a very interesting market. Myanmar, with fits and starts, will also be an interesting market. Cambodia opportunities are expanding and there’s a demand in the Philippines for resort locations.
In addition, global hoteliers are undertaking special programs for Chinese visitors at top Chinese tourist destinations. In a recent CNN op-ed, Hilton Asia-Pacific President Martin Rinck wrote,
Chinese guests staying at our Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort are fascinated with the coral formations around the resort, and sometimes try to bring a piece back as a souvenir. Our resort team members receive cultural training that enables them to then educate their Chinese guests on the length of time coral takes to form and the fragility of the formations, and hence the importance of leaving them in their natural state.
Tracking top destinations for Chinese travelers is an important business strategy for both hotels and retailers hoping to see big gains from Chinese tourist spending. Chinese preferences for travel locations are driven by a wide number of factors: ease of visa application, whether or not a country has “approved destination status” from the Chinese government, the availability of shopping, proximity to China, promotional programs, and even pop culture play a role in making a destination popular for China’s jet-set.