IHG scales up presence in Greater China

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is pushing ahead with plans to launch new brands and properties in Greater China, in preparation for the rebound.

While acknowledging that it would take time for the industry to recover from Covid-19, Jolyon Bulley, CEO-Greater China, IHG, said he was optimistic about the long-term development of tourism in the Greater China region and growth of China’s economy. As such, the region will remain IHG’s top markets for global expansion.

IHG plans to grow its footprint in China, with several planned properties including multiple under its Even Hotels brand; Even Hotels Nanjing Yangtze River pictured

With the crisis driving home the importance of health and well-being among consumers, IHG is moving ahead with plans to launch more hotels in China under its wellness and lifestyle-centric brand, Even Hotels.

Designed to appeal to wellness-minded guests who want to maintain balance while on the road, Even Hotels emphasises nutritious meals, exercising at one’s leisure, and adequate sleep. All these aspects come together to allow travellers to be in optimum condition during their travels.

Currently, the group has one hotel under the brand operating in China – Even Hotels Nanjing Yangtze River – with Even Hotels Chongli set to open come 4Q2020. The second Even Hotels in the country will sit within one of the competition zones for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Zhangjiakou.

Besides Even Hotels Chongli, 11 other Even Hotels are currently under construction in tourist spots such as Clear Water Bay, Hainan. Moving forward, IHG plans to expand its Even Hotels brand into first- and second-tier cities, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Changsha and Xi’an.

In terms of luxury openings by the group, this year marked the debut of the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center. Opened in May, the hotel is the first to feature Crowne Plaza’s new “Work-Life” concept in Greater China.

The concept emphasises the use of innovative design to ensure guests can stay connected while transiting smoothly between work and leisure.

The month of May also marked the launch of Regent Shanghai Pudong, the first Regent hotel worldwide after the group acquired the Regent Hotels and Resorts brand in mid-2018 and relaunched the brand in October 2018.

Located within the Lujiazui Financial District, the Regent Shanghai Pudong features the city skyline as its backdrop. The group intends to launch more Regent hotels in Hong Kong and Chengdu over the next few years.

Other properties the group are set to launch this year in Greater China include Intercontinental Chongqing Raffles City, Holiday Inn Express Urumqi Station, HUALUXE Xi’an Tanghua, Holiday Inn Hangzhou Chaoshan, Holiday Inn Resort Maoshan Hot-Spring, Holiday Inn Dalian Hot Spring, and Holiday Inn Express Hangzhou Westlake East.

Bulley attributed the group’s ability to expand swiftly to its operational model of partnering owners through management contracts and franchising. The model offers owners cost-effectiveness, the chance to tap on its established distribution network and strategy, as well as high rates of return.

Another way that IHG demonstrated its commitment towards supporting hotel owners was through the launch of the voco brand about two years ago. Under the brand, the group assists owners of independent hotels or hotels under local brands in reinventing their properties. The group intends to bring the brand to China – specifically to Wuhan – come 2021.

With the crisis, more owners of independent hotels are considering whether to tap on the expertise and network of reputable international chains who offer reinventing services and can transform their individual properties efficiently and quickly, shared Bulley.

This could mean more owners are likely to take on voco’s proposition of hotel reinvention in order to tap on IHG’s expertise in operations, revenue management and technology, as well as reap the benefits of the group’s distribution network and loyalty programme, IHG Rewards Club.

According to Bulley, the crisis also means that hotels between the mid-scale and upper mid-scale range are set to benefit from both the shift towards domestic travel as well as government initiatives to spur economic growth through consumption and enlarging the middle class.

It is therefore pertinent that tourism suppliers work towards meeting travel demands of Chinese travellers with higher disposable income. Luxury hotels in China can also leverage this opportunity to offer personalised experiences, noted Bulley.

– Translated by Angela Teo; this article was first published in TTG BTmice China

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