As affluent young Chinese travelers head abroad in growing numbers, Starwood’s boutique design hotel brand W has been opening its doors across Asia in order to cater to their individualistic travel style and high standards.
W Hotels has recently been on a major Asian expansion spree with a focus on top Chinese tourist hotspots. In addition to several new locations in China, it has been moving into Southeast Asia with new openings and developments underway in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Thailand, which is currently the fourth most popular non-mainland destination worldwide for outbound Chinese travelers, has been a particular point of focus for W’s Asia expansion. The W Bangkok was opened two years ago, and the hotel brand has a resort in Koh Samui that will be joined by one in Phuket in 2018.
According to Allen Howden, the director of sales and marketing for the W Bangkok, Chinese travelers are especially important to the brand’s business in Thailand. “We have just recently opened new W Hotels in China, such as W Beijing and W Guangzhou, and W Shanghai is set to open in the coming future,” he says. “From that, we expect that a lot more Chinese travelers will become familiar with the W Hotels Worldwide brand and W Bangkok.”
With the three millennial-focused core values of “music, design, and fashion,” W’s concept is all about attracting a young, stylish group of travelers. The hotel brand emphasizes its happening nightlife scene, featuring a lively bar hosting nightly DJs and frequent events, as well as a pool that blasts music underwater during parties happening at the poolside bar. It plays music throughout its lobby and hallways at all times, and the party doesn’t stop when you get to its high-tech rooms: guests can plug devices into their suite’s speaker system and set the lighting concept with an iPad control panel while mixing drinks with their in-room martini shaker.
W Hotels also prides itself on unique design concepts, featuring artwork by local artists and design elements focused on the locality throughout the hotel—the W Bangkok, for example, has Bangkok-themed art throughout the hotel, such as a wall of colorful flashing tuk-tuk lights on the ground floor to reference the city’s signature local transportation method.
As millennial Chinese tourists are far less likely to travel with a tour group, the W is in a prime position to appeal to rising ranks of independent Chinese travelers. “Over the two years that W Bangkok has been open, we have seen an increase in independent Chinese travelers at the hotel,” says Howden, who notes that Chinese tour groups also remain popular. The W Bangkok offers several special services and promotions focused specifically on catering to Chinese travelers. “A lot of our talents can speak Mandarin and are able to assist with any Chinese inquiry,” he says, and also notes that the hotel features Chinese options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as Chinese-language menus for guests.
According to him, marketing efforts toward Chinese travelers to Thailand are extensive. “We constantly create special room packages on our special offers page for the Chinese market. We send out e-newsletters in Mandarin targeting our Chinese guests and clients. We have built strong relationships with key travel agents and businesses in China to help grow the W Bangkok name with Chinese travelers.”
Most of the hotel’s Chinese guests are in Bangkok for leisure travel, and its independent Chinese travelers plan their activities out themselves rather going with a tour group. “You can see them often asking our Whatever/Whenever team for the most insider tourist attractions, or even a nice place to go shop for bargains,” according to Howden.
Although the hotel was impacted by the Chinese visitor slump caused by Thailand’s political strife last year, Howden says numbers are on the rebound. “We were impacted by the political situation as many travelers around the world stopped traveling to Bangkok at the time,” he says. “Since then, we’ve picked up tremendously and continue increasing at the moment.”
As for future Chinese visitor numbers, he’s optimistic about China’s outbound travel boom. “Statistics show that there is an increasing number of Chinese travelers visiting Thailand and it is forecasted to increase moving forward.”
106 North Sathorn Road