Preferred ready for Chinese expansion

Preferred Hotel Group is focusing on China as it expands its portfolio and customer base in Asia Pacific.

Speaking to Travel Daily, Anthony Ross, Preferred Hotel Group’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, revealed that company is now representing a growing number of hotels in China, including the recent signing of a major multi-property deal.

“China is obviously a big focus for us. We have a good portfolio now in China; we’ll be up to 23 hotels by the end of the year,” said Ross. “We’ve signed a deal with BTG-Jianguo Hotels & Resorts – one of the largest hotel companies in China. They’ve got a great portfolio all over the country and they’ve given us two of their hotels as a start – one in Guangzhou and one in Beijing – and we’re also talking to another one in Beijing.

Anthony Ross, Preferred Hotel Group’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa
Anthony Ross, Preferred Hotel Group’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa

“They’ve got about 80 hotels. I wouldn’t say [we’ll represent] the entire portfolio… but we’d like to think we can make inroads with them.”

And the portfolio growth is taking in all parts of the country, from the southwest to the northeast.

“We’ve just signed up the new Swire Hotel in Chengdu, Temple House,” Ross confirmed. “[And] we’re expanding now into the northeast of China, with the Furama Hotel Dalian. It’s a standalone hotel and probably the best independent hotel in the northeast of China. That will be a springboard for us to move into Changchun, Shenyang and Harbin.”

And Preferred Hotel Group’s Chinese growth plan is two-fold, with the company aiming to tap into the huge Chinese outbound tourism market. Last year, the company launched its ‘China Ready Programme’ strategy, which includes a series of service initiatives aimed at Chinese travellers.

“China is very important,” said Ross. “One hundred million outbound [travellers] this year; soon to be 200 million… So we need to understand how we can leverage opportunities domestically in China, as well as outbound.”

In terms of the China Ready Programme, Ross said the roll-out is “on-going”.

“We have 50 hotels signed up at the moment, and we’ll soon launch another 35 onto the website. At the moment we’re focusing on destinations that Chinese like to travel to.”

And while Ross admitted that the roll-out has been “slower than we would’ve liked”, he also revealed that visits to the company’s website have “increased ten-fold” since the start of the programme. “We’re confident this will translate into bookings going forward,” he added.

Ross also revealed that the Preferred Hotel Group’s membership programme, iPrefer, is experiencing “tremendous” growth in the Asia Pacific region.

“We’re working with a number of partners to expand our database in Asia. We’ve got about 1.5 million members now [worldwide], but we’ve reached a tipping point and we’re expanding rapidly now. About 10% of our members now are in Asia. We’ve just translated our iPrefer materials into all the Asian languages, so this should make a big difference,” he added.

And as the Chinese hotel industry continues its rapid expansion, demand for Preferred Hotel Group’s services – both from hotels owners and guests – should rise in tandem.

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