As Chinese consumers have more and more money to spend, they expect more from the hotels they visit – inside their own country and abroad. Hotel chains can thus seriously benefit from localization efforts.
When thinking of hotel chains that are opening new additions to their company abroad, localization might not be the first thing that comes to mind.
In an article on China Daily, however, Jiang Wanjuan states that the hospitality design industry must keep in mind that their creations appeal to the intended audience. Over the years, travellers have become more sophisticated, Wanjuan says, and hotels are used for more than just sleeping. For an optimum hotel experience, she says, guests should be reminded of exactly where they are.
Of course, this applies to hospitality design in China as well. Even though international companies used to transfer their hotel designs directly to their Chinese locations, this practice has long been abandoned, Wanjuan says.
Now, there are even conferences on subject of localization for the Asian market! At the 2014 Asia Hotel Forum, for example, discussions were held on how to adapt hotels to fit the market and strategies to attract more Chinese guests. At the conference, Wanjuan spoke to two experts on hospitality design: Christian Low and Eric D. Ullmann.
Wanjuan started off by asking the two why some hotels alter their design for new markets, while others employ the same design all over the world? Low, Asia Pacific regional director of hospitality with designing provider AECOM, replies that traditionally, large hotel chains liked to maintain a uniform look all over the world. However, he says this trend is changing – now, most hotels are trying to offer their guests a localized experience for every country their hotels are in.
Of course, Low says, the design is a very important feature of a hotel. He claims successful hotels have their own “design soul” and that localization and uniqueness have always played a big role in the works of innovative design firms.
Ullman, who is the president and design principal of DMU, a global leader in hotel interior design, adds that people also travel to see the city; hotels have to incorporate the country’s culture in their design to provide the best experience possible. Designers must keep the users in mind, he says, in hopes that guests will tell others about the great time they had at the hotel.
Ullman also claims companies are now trying harder to understand the Chinese customer: after all, there is a lot of money to be found on the Asian continent! Hospitality design has greatly been influenced by China. Now, he says, Chinese companies expand overseas, and Chinese people travel abroad as well.
This means international companies are trying to design hotels that appeal to the Chinese consumer. Wanjuan asks Low and Ullman what the Chinese actually like when it comes to hotel designs: Low states that the travelling Chinese are more and more sophisticated, meaning they are looking for unique, ingeniously designed hotels that incorporate the culture of the country they are in. Ullman adds that the Chinese also value a private dining area and lounge very highly. He does point out Chinese travellers have become more demanding: in fact, some simply travel to see hotels!
When asked about the average Chinese hotel, Low says that compared to overseas equivalents, the Chinese were often not that innovative in their designs. He believes this can be attributed to the fact that China simply didn’t have the monetary resources to do otherwise. However, this has changed in recent years, he says, and there are now a number of innovative hotels to be found in China. He also states that recent studies on China’s demographic and economy reveal a demand for budget and mid-market hotels, but Low believes there is room for growth in all segments. However, as the Chinese are increasingly sophisticated, he says, innovation is an important feature regardless of the prince range.
Concluding, Low says it is worthwhile to keep a close watch on the Chinese hospitality market – which includes both these hotels that are located in China and those aimed at Chinese guests travelling abroad. He believes the innovation, cultural sensitivity and the increasingly demanding Chinese consumers will raise the industry’s standards.