访谈策划：《旅游休闲》全媒体 ( Travel & Leisure All-media, 以下简称T&L )
What is the performance of the Chinese market in 2019? What are the surprising highlights in 2019?
Good things come in pairs as the year 2019 marks both the 70th birthday of P.R.C. as well as the 35th anniversary of IHG’s business in China. IHG has grown rapidly, mirroring the economic boom in China, with more than 800 hotels open or in the pipeline to date in the country. Over the past 35 years, we have closely followed the national strategy and adjusted ours to meet the demand of local consumers. For instance, we have expanded our footprint in regions including the Great Bay Area, Northwest China and the Yangtze River Delta, in parallel with the launch of regional favorable polices, providing more guests with true hospitality and great quality from our international brands.
· A record level of openings and signings in 2019
· Hitting 150 open hotels for Holiday Inn Express and 100 for Holiday Inn; opening our first Kimpton hotel in Greater China; the lifestyle hotel brand EVEN unveiled to the public for the first time
· Over the first nine months of 2019, 70% of signings are under Franchise model which was initially launched in China in 2016 for Holiday Inn Express and then extended to Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza
· New loyalty partnerships signed with China Southern Airlines, Alipay; launched the Mini-programme on Alipay, first international hotel group to do so
· Continued investment in local talent with 23 IHG Academy programmes signed with local colleges in 2019, taking us to 88 in total.
What are the new characteristics and changes of the hotel consumption trend of Chinese travelers in 2019? Will there be any adjustments to these changes in products and services in 2020?
China's domestic tourism market has developed rapidly and the demand for hotels will continue to grow. Domestic tourists have become the main consumers in China's hotel industry. With the consumption evolving, there are business opportunities not only from the millennials who pursue high-quality stay experience, but also from guests in lower tier markets who have huge consumption potential.
We believe that the hotel industry in China will continue to bloom, providing travelers with more options. A long-term trend is that the demand will shift from "buying a room" to "buying experience", and hotels offering unique experience will become more competitive in the future.
We have been observing and responding to consumer trends among Chinese travelers. For example, the "Next Generation" design of Holiday Inn Express diversifies the single function of the public area, takes "sharing" as the core concept, and blends working, leisure and catering space.
Another example is the Holiday Inn brand, one of the first international hotel brands that entered China. With the blending of working area and family corner, it will be able to meet the diverse demands from both business and leisure travelers.
In addition, EVEN Hotels, our newest brand in the China market, is committed to providing guests with diversified choices to live a healthy life in terms of both facilities and services. It will help domestic business travelers who prefer a healthy lifestyle to find the perfect balance between business travelling and well-being.
What is the impact of the global economic downturn on the hotel industry? How should the hotel industry cope with the economic downturn?
Despite that the overall hotel market has seen some challenges, it can be considered as inevitable fluctuation in the long-period uptrend. We believe that in China, tourism still remains one of the most promising growth engines. The domestic travel market shows strong growth momentum in spite of a slower rise, bringing more opportunities for IHG to develop in China. We see huge potentials in China hotel industry due to national polices that aim at deepening supply-side reform, cutting taxes and fees on a large scale, and stimulating domestic consumption; continued urbanization and tourism infrastructure improvements; the economic and urban development in Great Bay Area; as well as high technologies such as AI and 5G.
What new products, services and technologies have been used in 2019? How about the effect and the feedback from the guests?
We never stop innovating. We are willing to be a hotel pioneer in technological revolution and work with guests to explore the possibilities of futuristic experience. In line with Chinese guests’ preferences for mobile Internet, we constantly explore the boundaries of hotel services. The launch of AI smart rooms with Baidu, mini programmes on WeChat and Alipay have enabled us to stand out from competition. These new services have been widely favored and praised by guests.
For example, compared with traditional guest rooms, guests in our AI smart rooms can use voice commands to control curtains, lighting and air-conditioning, order room service, watch a film or request housekeeping.
Have some new measures been taken in 2019 to improve the brand loyalty of guests and the proportion of reservation on the official website of the hotel? How effective is it?
As one of the world's first hotel loyalty programs, IHG Rewards Club has been rewarding our loyal members with premier services and experience from both IHG and our selective partners since its launch. IHG announced a direct elite membership match partnership between its loyalty program IHG Rewards Club and China Southern Airlines’ in September 2019. We also launched the Mini-programme on Alipay in November, as the first international hotel group to do so. In the meantime, we partnered with Alipay to enable their loyalty members to match our membership.
These loyalty and channel partnerships with local leading companies help us further grow loyalty contribution as adding a richer range of benefits and experience for our members to enjoy.
Are AI, big data, robots and so on applied in your hotel group? What's the effect? How will you continue to move forward?
洲际酒店集团12月宣布推出全新客房娱乐数字解决方案IHG® Studio。IHG Studio是我们为当今旅行者提供创新宾客体验的又一举措。IHG Studio将为宾客实现以下功能：将个人设备上的在线视频内容安全连接至客房电视并进行播放；进行酒店服务相关的操作，例如在客房内增加枕头、要求延迟退房、查看客房账单等；通过移动设备上的IHG优悦会App遥控电视；预定客房送餐服务或购买客房用品；尊享全新的积分兑换试点项目，使用IHG优悦会积分抵扣酒店内产品或服务。
IHG is committed to investing in technology solutions that help deliver a great guest experience, as well as improve efficiency and effectiveness for owner operation.
In December 2019, IHG announced the launch of IHG® Studio, a new digital in-room guest entertainment solution. It allows guests to: connect and stream content securely from their personal devices to their guest room TV; make service requests such as order extra pillows, arrange for a late checkout and review room charges; access the TV remote from the IHG Rewards Club mobile app; order room service and purchase on-property amenities; Pay with Points, a new pilot program that allows guests to use IHG Rewards Club points to make in-hotel purchases.
IHG Studio is currently available nearly 40 hotels in the U.S. and will expand to other regions by the end of 2019, including Greater China. The system will become a standard across all brands globally over the coming years, providing guests with a quick, convenient and personalized guest room experience. IHG Studio also brings value to our hotel owners with an easy set-up that requires less maintenance and ultimately saves on operational costs.
what do you think of the membership connecting between hotel groups and other online platforms (such as Alipay, Ctrip, etc.)? Will your group do something in this regard in 2020?
It is a win-win cooperation model. We have already established a flagship store on Alibaba’s Fliggy platform and Mini-programmes on WeChat and Alipay. In the future, we will continue to strengthen cooperation with leading Chinese enterprises to bring more benefits and convenience to our members.
Will there be new hotels in China in 2020? How about the layout of brands and regions of the newly opened hotel?
In 2020, IHG’s 500th hotel in Greater China will be open, another milestone for us being rapidly growing in the region. Several other iconic hotels are expected to open in 2020: the first EVEN Hotel will be open in Nanjing, together with HUALUXE hotels in Nanjing and Xi’an, as well as an InterContinental hotel in Chongqing. As an important growth engine for China, the franchise model helps three of our brands – Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express to reach more emerging markets. Nevertheless, we didn’t slow down our footprint in key locations of the Tier 1 cities, for example, the upgraded InterContinental Shenzhen Dameisha Resort will be open on the New Year’s Day, and HUALUX in Beijing will also be open in the new year.
What measures have been taken to promote your hotel group in 2019? What's the effect? What kinds of marketing campaign will be launched in 2020?
周卓瓴先生：我们丰富的品牌阵营在2019年各有新的营销动作。比如，为庆祝全球第200家洲际®酒店及度假村——上海佘山世茂洲际酒店的开业，洲际®酒店及度假村携手伦敦当代艺术家Alexander Hall（别名Haut de Gamme©），共同打造极具视觉吸引力的装置艺术，并展开世界巡展。而作为洲际酒店集团旗下专为中国消费者打造的中式高端酒店品牌，华邑酒店及度假村在12月与龚琳娜《二十四节气古诗词音乐会》全国巡演海口站共同打造一场歌与友、食与聚的中国文化之旅，演绎传统艺术经典与创新，以中国古典文化激发宾客旅行灵感。今年夏天以来，智选假日品牌以“有智青年GO”为主题开展了系列品牌营销活动，通过线上线下的完整链路实现与消费者的全方位共燃，旨在缔造并深化品牌年轻活力且多元的新形象。2020年我们会继续根据各品牌的不同特质和市场趋势，推出更多的跨界合作。
Each brand in our rich portfolio has its own marketing campaigns in 2019. For example, to celebrate the opening of the world's 200th InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts -- InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, the brand worked with London artist Alexander Hall (also known as Haut de Gamme©) to create a visually appealing installation and go on a world tour. And the high-end tailored-for-Chinese brand HUALUXE® Hotels and Resorts offered a Chinese culture tour in Haikou with singer Gong Linna and her fans. Holiday Inn Express also launched a series of brand campaigns with the theme of "Go join the smart generation", which aims to create and deepen the brand's new image of youth, vitality and diversity through online and offline activities that fully connecting with consumers. In 2020, we will continue to launch more cross-border cooperation based on brand features and market trends.
What is the proportion of Chinese travelers and consumption trend in your group's overseas market?
We are delighted to see that the proportion of Chinese tourists is increasing as a result of China's rapid growth in outbound tourism. China’s outbound tourists made 149 million trips in 2018, an increase of 14.7% year over year, according to a report by China Tourism Academy. The economic boom, rising disposable income, transportation improvement, as well as easier visa policies have laid a good foundation for the future development of China's outbound tourism. In 2019, IHG also launched its overseas hotels on the Fliggy flagship store, offering Chinese consumers more booking options. In terms of consumer trends, just as domestic travelers, Chinese outbound travelers are also experience-oriented, which echoes IHG's vision – deliver True Hospitality for everyone.
What are the biggest difficulties that may be encountered in 2020? Are there any corresponding countermeasures?
Challenges in the hospitality industry include consumer demand shifting to diversification, high quality, unique experience, raising higher requirements for the supply side; homogeneous competition in hotel offerings; a shortage in professional talent due to a rapid increase in hotel supply.
However, we consider difficulties as opportunities, and we’re still excited about the opportunities in China market. Hoteliers should think about how to keep up with consumer demand, pursue differentiation, and accelerate talent development, which are exactly what we have been doing.
For example, EVEN Hotels, the first in China expected to open in 2020, aims to create a healthy lifestyle experience for business travelers. And the Next Generation design of Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express also shows differentiation in the mainstream segment. In addition, there are now 88 IHG Academy programmes in China, training a large number graduates each year, who could go on to have a career with the business.
What are your expectations for the Group's performance in China in 2020?
In 2020, we will continue to follow the national strategy and consumer trends to strive for both high quality and great quantity. Apart from strengthening competitiveness in existing markets, we will continue to explore emerging markets. We will also deepen the development of the franchise model in China, providing owners with diversified choices and more comprehensive support in hotel operation. In addition, we will continue to enrich our brand portfolio and keep technological innovation to meet the consumer needs.
What are your personal impressive travel experiences in 2019? How about your personal travel plans for 2020? What aspects do you value most when you choose a hotel?
In this August, we opened Holiday Inn Xining Hot-Spring, our 100th Holiday Inn hotel in Greater China, also the first IHG hotel in Qinghai Province, and I was honored to witness the milestone. It was also the first time that I’d been to Xining, a gateway city in both Ancient Silk Road and now Northwest China, and I was very impressed by its magnificent scenery and tourism development. IHG has been operating in China for 35 years and Holiday Inn was IHG’s first brand to enter China in 1984, with the Holiday Inn Lido Beijing. Just as the ancient trade route “Silk Road” has linked China to the Mediterranean Sea, the hotel will also link guests to the authentic local culture and custom.
When I travel, I pay great attention to details. In a service business like ours, you would probably be failed if you only focus on facilities, but don’t forget: it’s the True Hospitality that would be remembered and recommended by guests forever.
About The Annual Interview of Travel and Leisure Industry
The Annual Interview of Travel and Leisure industry is a series of interviews on the whole industry chain organized by the TRAVEL & LEISURE all-media platform. Those interviews cover the industries of destination, hotel, aviation, cruise, travel agency, travel equipment (outdoor, suitcase, digital products), OTA, shopping village and so on. The purpose is to share the latest data of that year and predict the development trend of the industry in the coming year. To strengthen exchange between those industries, light spark of ideas and inspire innovation, we hope to contribute to the coordinated and efficient development of tourism and leisure industry from a media platform. The first operation of the annual interview in 2017 has received positive response and support from many industry leaders, they issued many in-depth, detailed and unique views. It won a prize from Industries and readers! The 2019 Annual Interview is launching on November 2019, we are looking forward to your joining us!