IHG scales up further in Greater China

One of the hotel rooms at Even Hotels Nanjing Yangtze River pictured

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

While recognising that it would take some time for the industry to recover from the impact of the pandemic, 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.

One of the hotel rooms at Even Hotels Nanjing Yangtze River pictured

As such, the region will remain one of the markets where IHG expands the quickest, shared Bulley.

Earlier in May, IHG debuted the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center (WECC). This marks the second hotel it opened in China after the mid-2019 reinvention of the Crowne Plaza brand, the first being Crowne Plaza Wuzhen in Zhejiang.

Featuring a modernised and innovative design concept that sets it apart from the older generation of properties under the brand, the hotel incorporates Crowne Plaza’s signature public space design concept Plaza Workspace to provide office spaces tailored to fit the needs of the modern corporate traveller.

Not only are business guests offered the convenience of ordering small bites by scanning a QR code and helping themselves to free-flow beverages, they can tap on free Wi-Fi and the abundance of power sockets and wireless recharging stations to stay connected.

Besides harnessing public spaces to provide convenient working environments for the business traveller, IHG recognises that the pandemic has led to increased consciousness of the importance of health and well-being among consumers. This has manifested itself, among other ways, in a desire to keep up with healthy lifestyle habits while on the road.

This makes the group’s plans to build more hotels in China under its wellness and lifestyle-focused brand, Even Hotels, a timely move.

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

Serving corporate travellers looking to care for their mental and physical well-being during business trips as well as wellness-focused leisure travellers, Even Hotels emphasises nutritious meals, exercising at one’s leisure, and adequate sleep, in order to allow travellers to be in optimum condition and be most effective on their travels.

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.

Another milestone for IHG this year was the launch of 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 opened its doors in May. Over the next few years, the group intends to launch more Regent hotels in Hong Kong and Chengdu.

Other properties the group is 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: Covid-19 crisis means that hotels in the mid-scale and upper mid-scale range will benefit due to the shift towards domestic travel

Bulley attributed the ability of the group to expand swiftly to its operational model, where it partners 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 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 and 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 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 the IHG’s expertise in operations, revenue management and technology, as well as the benefits of the group’s distribution network and loyalty programme IHG Rewards Club. While providing these benefits, Voco will seek to retain the individual flavour of the hotel.

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, and 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 on 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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