20 Nov 2014
Has Hong Kong lost its appeal as a mainstay among Chinese travellers? It's a question the hospitality industry is confronting head-on as China's tourism trends change. JLL asks Lothar Nessmann, COO of Traders Hotels what the city must do to retain favour among Chinese travellers.
Hong Kong must adapt to keep its edge in Asia's increasingly competitive tourism market, that's the message from Lothar Nessmann, COO, Traders Hotels.
"China's new consumers are very well travelled and educated, they know what they like and they can, and will, compare what's on offer," said Nessmann. "These people have also travelled to London, Rome and New York. They've seen international standards."
Mainland Chinese tourists traditionally account for two-thirds of total arrivals to Hong Kong. Even in the face of the recent Occupy Central protests, the city has sustained demand.
However, over the last decade, a younger generation of upwardly mobile, middle class Chinese tourists have discovered destinations further afield. Outbound tourism figures show a growth rate of more than 15 per cent year-on-year and, while Hong Kong still tops the table, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea are competing for China's custom.
"The competition between major cities in Asia is increasing, take Singapore and Hong Kong for example" adds Nessmann. "There needs to be continuous benefit for the consumer and these cities will now compete in everything from entertainment to restaurants in the coming years.
Demand from China has driven a swell in hotel stock in Hong Kong over the last ten years - in 2014 alone 3,331 hotel rooms are expected to open, according to the local tourism board.
Brands such as Shangri La, InterContinental, Starwood and Hilton represent the top tier of the city's offering. But a new wave of mid-range properties are propping up demand.
"There is still huge room for luxury and the classic brands will remain but there's a new millennial traveller to cater for. They're not only young in age but young at heart."
Nessmann is leading Traders' first radical rebrand in two decades. The luxury hotelier is phasing out Traders to introduce Hotel Jen, a new brand designed specifically for the millennial minded traveller.
Having launched in Singapore in October 2014, Hotel Jen will next roll-out in Hong Kong, Brisbane, Penang, Johor Bahru, Manila, Maldives, Beijing and Shenyang up until March 2015.
"We understand you don't want a $15 mars bar. You can get a coffee when you leave so you can enjoy it in the taxi to work. You don't need to walk down the street to find one. There are charging stations everywhere – we know our customers travel with two or three devices."
Hotels aside, Nessmann urges every industry from entertainment to retail to rethink their offering.
"Hong Kong needs to out its hand up for major sporting events and music concerts if it wants to attract these consumer," he adds.
While Hong Kong is fighting to entice a different kind of traveller, he's confident that the People's Republic's vast population can support the city's burgeoning hotel industry.
"The Chinese market is so large that other potential visitors are now finding Hong Kong.
The hotels in Hong Kong are very dynamic and have, for a long time, set trends. That will continue."
The city's latest hotels may not serve up the usual frills associated with five-star hospitality but it's catering to more than just a mass movement of millennials: it's redefining luxury. A new generation of travellers are increasingly teaching brands that it's the little things that count.