In 2018, over 6,000 new hotels were built across the globe, opening up over 1 million new hotel rooms. And while those numbers were the largest ever recorded, even more hotel openings are predicted in 2019. Yet while the industry is booming, the category is still working hard to figure out how to attract Chinese travellers – 150 million of whom travelled outbound in 2018 with over 200 million predicted by 2020. With so much competition in the market, how can you ensure your hotel brand can win?

In the 2018 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® which measures the brands that are most indispensable in consumers’ lives, we took a deeper look at the hospitality category and perceptions of hotel brands among Chinese consumers. We found that overall hospitality brands are highly relevant to consumers; however, being a good, well-known hotel brand is no longer enough to win. So we looked deeper at what drives relevance for Chinese hotel guests and identified three critical things hotel brands must do throughout the customer journey to be relevant to Chinese travellers.

1. Address the Emerging Need for Self-Expression

Look at any of the rising social media platforms in China, Red (Xiao Hong Shu) or TikTok (Douyin) and the rise of self-expression in China is highly evident. Like social media, having an aspirational hotel brand that enables Chinese consumers to express who they are through where they stay is a way of building social currency.

This is why W hotels outperforms all other hotel brands (#1 in the hospitality category and #18 among all 249 brands in the Index) among Chinese consumers. It is seen as a hotel that “meets an important need in people’s lives.” And although only four properties are currently built in China, the iconic trendy experience that started at the W in New York has permeated in China, enabling consumers to demonstrate their modern, stylish selves through a sleek hotel design with a strong brand character that meets their unique, individual needs.

2. Create Authentic, Local Experiences

“Makes me happy” is the second most important driver in the hospitality category among Chinese consumers and one where Shangri-La outperforms all other brands. As an international hotel brand with strong Chinese roots, Shangri-La offers authentic Chinese experiences and cuisine and frequently holds interactive activities such as culinary classes and local cuisine festivals that are reflective of the markets where they are located.

Banyan Tree also performs well on “makes me happy” and is known for its beautiful resorts with the best locations in the most popular tourist destinations. Each hotel is well-designed and enable customers to immerse in the local environment and enjoy premium services without stepping outside the hotel.

3. Innovate Across the Experience

When we looked across the 33 categories that we surveyed in the 2018 Brand Relevance Index, two attributes stood out to Chinese consumers as more important for the hospitality category than all other categories – “engages in new and creative ways” and “pushes the status quo.”

Not surprisingly, W hotels is also a leading performer on both. With eclectic, modern décor, guest DJ’s, summer pool parties and modern, innovative cuisine, the brand pushes the status quo of traditional Chinese norms at every turn. It’s modern, funky design also creates a great backdrop for social media enabling Chinese guests to not only enjoy the innovative experiences of the brand but to also share them with others.

Final Thoughts

As hotel brands look toward the future, competition in the category will only continue to intensify. To stay relevant in the lives of Chinese consumers hotels must push beyond good design and comfortable beds and connect with consumers on deeper, more emotional levels that reflect their own identities, enhance the hotel experience and feel authentic to the local culture of the destination.

Learn more about relentlessly relevant hospitality brands and how to stay relevant in the ever-competitive Chinese market.


About the Prophet Brand Relevance IndexTM (BRI) 2018

The Prophet Brand Relevance Index™ is released in four countries — China, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Prophet surveyed 47,845 consumers across the U.S., UK, Germany and China about 800 brands. It partnered with Research Now SSI, the world’s leading global provider of first-party consumer and professional data based on extensive, proprietary market research panels, to program, field, collect and tabulate data.

In China, Prophet surveyed 13,000 consumers about more than 249 brands across over 30 industries. Each participating consumer rated up to five brands within a single category on 16 different attributes that correspond to the four principles of relevance Prophet identified. To rate a brand, a consumer had to be familiar with the brand and a frequent consumer in the brand’s category.


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