Two of the biggest names in the hotel world, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, have launched amenity and service programs today targeting the burgeoning Chinese outbound travel segment.
After three months of interviews with its GMs in China and Chinese travel agencies, as well as tests at three hotels, the Hilton Huanying program will rollout with amenities, service standards and dedicated Hilton team member training. Thirty-six hotels around the world are already enrolled in the program, which debuts August 16 in San Francisco. This program is launching initially with the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand, but is available to all Hilton Worldwide hotels. There are properties from other brands that are now opting to participate, according to a Hilton spokesman.
“Our starting point is activating the program in key destinations and we expect several more hotels to join as they evaluate the growing impact of Chinese travelers in their respective markets,” said Andrew Flack, vice president of Global Brand Marketing, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
Chinese travelers to Hilton hotels will find familiar comforts in three touch points of the on-property experience (arrival, guestroom and breakfast). A front desk team member will be fluent in Chinese; guestroom amenities will include tea kettles, Chinese teas, slippers, Chinese TV programming and a welcome letter written in Chinese. Breakfast will include two varieties of congee with condiments; fried rice or fried noodles; dim sum selection; fried dough fritters (crullers); hard boiled eggs; fresh fruit; Chinese tea and soy milk; as well as Chinese culinary utensils.
“We are providing owners with a cost effective solution that is less about additional cost and more about a well thought out integration of services into what our hotels normally provide,” Flack added. “Service training is the foundation of Hilton Huanying and that requires little or no cost.”
At a press conference in Shanghai today, Starwood launched Starwood Personalized Travel debuting at 19 Starwood hotels in gateway cities around the globe. The program will become a brand standard across all Starwood hotels and resorts by the end of 2012. Starwood also plans to introduce similar offerings to its global guests from other emerging markets such as India and Brazil.
Very similar to the Hilton program, Starwood highlights offering in-room tea kettles, slippers, translated welcome materials and on-site translation services. Restaurant menus will also be made available in Chinese and feature familiar favorites like congee. Upon arrival, guests receive a packet of local area information — shopping, sightseeing and key hotel information — translated into Chinese.
According to a Starwood spokeswoman, the cost to participating hotels is minimal and feedback from the 19 properties participating in the program has been extremely positive. “With 100 million outbound travelers expected by 2015 our goal is to continue to attract and cater to this all important market and make them feel welcome at our hotels around the world,” the spokeswoman said. “Just last year several of our hotels in gateway cities around the world saw double and triple digit growth year-over-year by Chinese travelers. Chinese business at the W New York – Times Square grew 173% and Chinese business at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Southern California increased 140%.”
The launch of Starwood’s program coincides with the conclusion of the unprecedented month-long relocation of the company’s entire senior leadership team to China.