While China’s borders remain closed to non-essential travel, Shanghai-based REST Collections is ready to restart its sales and marketing engines for its hotel clients to get the Chinese outbound market to spend – this time by relying on live-stream shopping.
Calvin Tay, senior vice president of strategic partnerships (global travel & hotels) with the Shanghai-headquartered company, told TTG Asia that live-stream shopping – zhibo in Chinese language – has been a popular and effective channel for retailing a wide range of products, from food and fashion to property.
“Some major OTAs in China have turned to live-stream channels to promote and sell tour packages to the Chinese market, but the products are for domestic travellers. We may well be the first to use live-stream to promote and market overseas hotels in China,” remarked Tay.
REST Collections, through its main office in Shanghai and branch offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, helps regional hotel chains and independent properties to target the China outbound market as well as provide consultancy and design work around IT systems for reservations, housekeeping and more. It counts Thailand’s Cape & Kantary Hotels as well as individual properties such as Star Suites KL, Liu Men Hotel Melaka and The Pines Melaka in Malaysia; Rest Bugis and Hotel 1888 Collection in Singapore; and others among its clients.
His hotel clients are ready to shave 30 to 50 per cent off room rates and throw in complimentary meals for limited-time pay-now-stay-later deals that will be promoted and sold on the live-stream sessions from mid-June.
To bring a fresh angle to his clients’ live-stream sessions, Tay is working on partnerships with commercial organisations from outside of the travel and tourism industry.
“We are talking to a Chinese jewellery chain for cross-promotions. For example, our session could focus on weddings and honeymoon, where the audience could purchase engagement bands from the jeweller and get a special price for our honeymoon resort package,” he shared, adding that popular Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, Xiaohongshu and Bilibili will be used to raise awareness of the sessions.
“China is a very competitive and tech-driven marketplace. Non-Chinese hotels wanting to succeed here must be ready to invest in digital channels and digital content. At the same time, they must be able to leverage all possible channels to get visibility. Our recent partnerships with Spring Airlines and China Southern Airlines will grant our hotel clients an additional platform to attract Chinese outbound travellers,” added Tay.
Tay is not discouraged by the existing travel barriers, saying that consumers emerging from the lockdown are all the more hungry for travel and consumption. “Most people are spending time at home and in their country for a good six months of 2020, and that desire to resume travels and to spend is growing in intensity, especially among those who are so used to frequent travels,” he said.
“It makes no business sense to sit and wait (for the barriers to be lifted), and to not stimulate market demand. The Chinese are starting to plan for their overseas vacations, for when it is safe to do so. Now is the time for us to introduce travel ideas to the market, to inspire them towards their next holiday.
“There is even an opportunity for transactions. If hotels are able to come up with very attractive buy-now-stay-later deals, travellers will grab,” he opined.
He predicts that the traditional outbound travel peak this July and August, when Chinese schools break for summer, will likely fall flat for overseas businesses looking to welcome again the Chinese. Instead, he is pinning his hopes on the October peak season, and is confident that the Chinese will snap up early bird travel deals in the next two months “when offers are at their best”.