Lending a distinctive touch to each and every hotel brand - how to attain success?
Companies like Huazhu Group and Wyndham aren't averse to experimenting. Importantly, standardization of a hotel category doesn't mean being "fixed" for these companies.
ChinaTravelNews, Ritesh Gupta - Huazhu Group is assiduously pursuing ways to invigorate its hotel portfolio with amenities and design that stand out in case of each of the brand owned.
For instance, Hanting featuring Niiice Cafe and Park Box fitness facility along with self check-in/-out kiosks and a wider selection of pillows is the level of detailing that is going into making a brand stand out. In case of Ji Hotel, keeping big space in the lobby and making it luring it with a bookstore is an attempt to please the guests of this brand.
The team at Huazhu has been keenly pursuing ways to maximize the use of space, shared Jenny Zhang, CEO of Huazhu Group.
Jenny Zhang, CEO of Huazhu Group
"We have been re-designing in order to revitalize our brands, " said Zhang, a speaker at TravelDaily's China Hotel Marketing Conference, being held in Hangzhou. Eventually, this initiative will result in "value increment of assets", she said.
Jenny also briefly mentioned the role of technology. Huazhu not only supports a proficient mobile application that facilitates booking, room selection, payment etc., but also the staff in a number of ways. These include proprietary cloud-based H-PMS (for real-time inventory, yield management etc.), empowering the staff with a mobile app that enables the workforce at the property etc.
Innovating with a methodical approach
In addition to 12 brands, with a primary focus on economy and mid-scale hotel segments, the group also has the rights as master franchisee for Mercure, Ibis and Ibis Styles, and co-development rights for Grand Mercure and Novotel in China. Huazhu had 3,817 hotels or 384,959 rooms in operation at the end of March this year. In case of Mercure Hotels, Jenny also referred to Cjia.com (apartment) and Distrii (office space).
"Hangzhou leads innovation by combining different models (for various brands). It is vital to form an emotional connect, and the key here is to understand the various sensitivity points (that impact the relevant audience of each brand) and then act accordingly," said Zhang.
Looking at the brand matrix in the mid-scale category, the company has been segregating brands on the basis of pricing (upper mid-scale, mid-scale and entry-level mid-scale) and standardization (in terms of core elements, styles and design).
Standard doesn't mean being "fixed"
Leo Liu, President, Greater China, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., acknowledged the approach of Huazhu and complemented the team for their progress. "The Huazhu-Accor partnership has proven to a successful one so far for both the organizations (according to Accor, as a result of Huazhu’s strong growth in China, the 10.8% equity interest acquired in January 2016 for $193 million was worth $1.1 billion at the end of 2017)." Liu admired Huazhu for their "their vision, dynamism and the speed with which the team makes progress". One of the key facets of success is flexibility and Huazhu's time to action post a plan is formulated is creditable, said Liu.
Leo Liu, President, Greater China, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
Hotels have to sustain the aspirational value as they have managed to do over the years. "From being a desirable and luring proposition for one to experience, hotels have seemingly lost their way. A hotel brand also needs to cater to the lifestyle and social elements alongside the core strength of what a hotel stands for. There is a need to evaluate in detail (encompasses branding, the color mix, lighting and overall aesthetics, technology, amenities and even training of staff) where hotels can essentially become an integral part of one's lifestyle and at the same time retain the aspirational quotient," mentioned an industry executive.
For a global player like Wyndham, Liu mentioned that standard doesn't mean being stuck with fixed ideas.
"It means meeting a superlative standard that has been set and at the same time, hotels can adapt to drive the trend - to remain appealing, trustworthy and the same time making people comfortable." He added, "Flexibility and standardization aren't necessarily contradictory. Hotels have to cater to the needs and desires of their guests. Standard refers to a certain deployment of process that ensures quality, but being local and being a part of a certain culture is way to make the stay enjoyable. So improvisation happens on the basis of messaging based on the international standard that has been set for the brand."
For Wyndham in China, where the company has 1400 properties and the plan is to take it to 2000 in 3 years' duration, building an emotional connect is of paramount importance. He referred to the examples of TRYP by Wyndham, a select-service urban hotel brand, Wingate Hotels and Wyndham Garden Hotels. "These brands have been crafted diligently - it could be about bringing social, street life to a hotel so that people living in the same city can love our hotels, there could be a reason why an "art gallery" feel has been incorporated into a brand and then one brand would let a family indulge and celebrate togetherness," said Liu, who added that the company continues to look out for a suitable partner in China.
Liu concluded by highlighting that as much as brands can be refurbished or completely rejuvenated, it needs to be remembered that making them profitable is equally important. "Drive the lifestyle trend and building an emotional connect are absolutely important, but for the owner of a property, return on investment is a valid consideration, too."