Hotel Rating Systems: Evolve or disappear (Forbes might be near the end)

AAA- Forbes - Gervois Hotel ratings systemsHow guests choose their hotels? International hotel ratings systems exist for a long period of time. Some are amalgamations of other ratings systems; some, like TripAdvisor, average out user ratings, and everyone know it’s partly fake. (Oops, it’s not politically correct, sorry guys); and then there’s the Forbes Travel Guide, which claims to be “the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas.” The very old fashioned AAA ratings with the fading glory of their diamond ratings is another player. And the new Gervois Hotel Rating is the newest hotel rating system for U.S. hotels, founded in 2017.

There are a few things you should know about the Forbes Travel Guide. First and surprisingly, Forbes doesn’t own it. The publisher licenses its name to this independent entity. Secondly, unlike many other ratings systems, a team of full-time professional mystery shoppers inspects every rated hotel listed in the Forbes Travel Guide. Thirdly, a growing part of millennials don’t really trust Forbes Travel Guide. And that’s problematic for the future.

Additionally, the same company offers consulting services to hotels. According to the Forbes Travel Guide LinkedIn profile, “We also provide the hospitality industry with learning tools and programs that deliver insight into the star rating process and expert guidance on connecting with guests most effectively.” And that’s a big issue for ratings independence.

Forbes Travel Guide evolved out of Mobil Guides, which had been around since 1958. In 2006, Jeffrey T. Arnold, the founder of WebMD, bought the publication, and in 2009, renamed it Forbes Travel Guide.
In recent years the publication has undergone another change. “We stopped measuring one and two-star hotels and replaced the three-star category with a recommended option,” Chief Executive Gerard J. Inzerillo said.Thus, the guide turned its focus to upper-upscale and luxury products. “A four-star rating,” in the words of Inzerillo, “is what we consider the Olympic gold medal or the Oscar. They are extremely difficult to earn. Meanwhile, we are very stingy on the five-star rating.”
He compares five-star properties to Michael Phelps, Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro: hotels that not only demonstrate excellence, but do so over a span of time. Among Forbes Travel Guide’s perennial five-star hotels with “relentless, seamless commitment to the highest guest standard” are The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong(one of several Mandarin Oriental hotels on the list), and Portrait Roma-Lungarno Collection, Rome. Places like The Langham in Sydney and L’Auberge in Carmel only get four stars. “The most beautiful hotel isn’t the best hotel, because the best distinguishes itself with emotional connectivity, not how much marble it has,” Inzerillo said.

Emotion is precisely how the Gervois Hotel Rating is working: This New York City based hotel rating system started in 2017 with 80 U.S. properties, and has 120 rated properties in 2018 (200 in 2019). With a more flexible and accurate sytem based on a 100 points scale, it primarily targets sophisticated, diverse and affluent American travelers. And it might well be the future of hotel ratings.

The  Forbes Travel Guide guide benchmark service standards (check-in process, room service) on factors such as courtesy and manners; graciousness, thoughtfulness and sense of personalized service. Meanwhile, it rates the physical aspects of the hotel on factors ranging from cleanliness and condition to guest comfort and convenience. But these factors remain very technical and analytical.  A true hotel experience is about feelings, emotions, and the desire to come back with your loved ones.  Not about the size of the closets or around the clock room service that nobody really uses.

Source: Article by L. Powell in SKIFT / Forbes Travel Guide / AAA / Gervois Hotel Rating / Travel+Leisure / E.K.

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Pierre Gervois to speak at UnfoldBrics event in Dubai on March 20th, 2018

Conjoining the world of Art with Architecture and Culture, UNFOLD Art XChange entices the world’s premier private bankers, financial institutions, government authorities, public art agencies, spatial designers, real estate and hospitality professionals with insights, opportunities and new partnerships as well as attracts corporate collectors, private and public institutions worldwide through a series of Art Talks that will run from the 19th to 22nd of March to coincide with Dubai Art Week.

Pierre Gervois, Founder and President of Gervois Hotel Rating, the disruptive hotel rating system that makes Forbes stars and AAA diamonds look old fashioned and tacky, will deliver a speech about the importance of re-assessing the standards of hotel rating, in particular for the new generation of sophisticated travelers who are not impressed anymore by the mere lobby’s size or a 24h room service, but rather by elegance in decoration, truly warm service, and sustainability.

 

GERVOIS magazine has been selected to be the new preferred travel publication of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club

GERVOIS magazine has been selected to be the new preferred global travel publication of the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club, and is now distributed to its members.

GERVOIS magazine is proud to follow the steps of the iconic STC magazine, the Club’s own iconic travel magazine that has been published from 2008 to 2017.

Founded in Shanghai in 2008, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club is China’s most exclusive international luxury travel club for discerning Chinese global entrepreneurs and executives seeking experiential & authentic travel discoveries.

Its 12,000+ members have an average annual income of US$580K, travel overseas on average four times per year, and spend on average US$63,500 per year during their travels. 23% of them have invested in real estate internationally. Excluding their real estate investment abroad, they collectively spend & invest more than US$700M per year in travel related expenses.

As the vast majority of Chinese high net worth individuals who travel frequently overseas is now speaking Engligh fluently, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club members felt the need to partner with an English language luxury travel magazine.

The club has selected GERVOIS magazine for its acclaimed editorial content, featuring exceptional hotels, men’s fashion styling ideas, art investment, real estate investment, and their iconic travel photoshoots made by the New York based famous travel photographer EFDLT studio, Director of Photography.

Starting with the Spring 2018 issue, released on March 16th, GERVOIS magazine will proudly partner for the years to come with the Shanghai Travelers’ Club and invite its Chinese members to travel and discover the United States and the World in style.

More informations about GERVOIS magazine:
http://www.gervoisrating.com/shanghai-travelers-club/

More informations about EFDLT studio, Director of Photography:
http://www.efdltstudio.com/
https://www.instagram.com/efdltstudio/

As 50% of wealthy Chinese are ready to leave the country, U.S. real estate sector is getting ready

According to a recent survey, Chinese high net worth individuals (HNWIs) – defined as people with US$1.5 million or more in investible assets – more than 50 percent are either planning to, or are considering, emigrating from China.
According to Bain Consulting and China Merchants Bank, there areWealthy Chinese investors- Kushner investments around 1.6 million Chinese with investible assets of $1.5 million or more, up from 180,000 in 2006. (Note: Ask anyone who’s familiar with China and they’ll likely tell you the real figure is far higher than that.)

For Chinese people looking to leave China, the U.S. and Canada are the most popular destinations, followed by the U.K. and Australia.
Cities on the west coast of the U.S. are the preferred emigration destinations for the Chinese. These cities are of course closest to China, increasingly served with regular direct flights and have substantial existing Chinese communities.
If half of U.S. millionaires were looking at leaving the country, clearly we’d want to know why. Education and environment are the primary factors motivating rich Chinese people to leave China.

Chinese political and military elites have long spurned local higher education, instead sending their offspring to study at prestigious western universities for a better education than what’s available at home. The daughter of Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, studied at Harvard University in the U.S. For reference, in the Times Higher Education 2017 World University Rankings, the first Chinese university is ranked 29th.
Clean air and water, safe food and an open-minded education are attractive to anyone – and especially wealthy Chinese.
In addition, some 84 percent of participants cited the depreciation of the Chinese yuan as a key concern and driver for looking to move and buy real estate abroad.
But there are other reasons that push the wealthy to look overseas. The reality is in China, if you cross the authorities, everything can get pretty bad for you, and quickly. You’ll notice that the top 10 cities listed in the table above are all found in countries with open and transparent rule of law – which is lacking in China.
An overseas exit plan provides an insurance policy, should a swift departure ever need to be made.

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According to Pierre Gervois, Founder of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, an international travel club for Chinese elites, and Publisher of the STC magazine, “Contrary to what Europeans and American analysts think, HNWI Chinese are perfectly aware of China’s economic situation. The myth of a growing and successful China has been carefully entertained by the Chinese government in order to maximize Foreign Direct Investments (FDA’s), but the Chinese elite had never been naive. They know for fifteen year that this growth is not sustainable and it might be time to leave the boat for them and their close family.”

Property prices on the west coast of the U.S. have been boosted, in part, by continued buying by people from China. There have been numerous reports over the years of open houses being completely dominated by Chinese-speaking viewers, and even tour groups focusing on acquiring real estate.
And Chinese students will continue to flock to the U.S., with some 60 percent of all overseas students in the U.S. now hailing from China. Again, Mum and Dad will often buy real estate, along with a degree for junior.
What’s the easiest way for a wealthy Chinese individual to get a green card? Well, as the sister of U.S. President Trump’s son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, told an audience of Chinese investors in May in Beijing, you just need to invest in a bit of Kushner family real estate development.

The EB-5 visa programme allows for overseas investors to put US$500,000 in projects that create at least 10 jobs (in areas of high unemployment), or a million dollars in other areas, and in return apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
Jared Kushner, prior to his White House role, raised US$50 million from Chinese EB-5 investors for a Trump-branded apartment complex in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Not surprisingly, this has been hugely popular with wealthy Chinese. Around 85 percent of the visas have gone to Chinese, and there is a backlog of more than 20,000 applications.
Although the EB-5 program is likely to be altered or at least reviewed, the U.S. looks set to remain a popular destination for Chinese money for the foreseeable future.

Source: Stansburry Churchouse Research / Business Insider Blog / Tama Churchouse / Chinese Tourists in America Blog

Dunhill, Burberry & Saint Laurent are closing stores in China: The Chinese dream is over for luxury brands.

Dunhill advertisementChina has recorded the most number of closures of luxury stores between July 2016 and July 2017, the latest report by the investment research and management company Bernstein shows. The report, titled “Store Wars,” based its findings on Bernstein’s tracking of about 7,000 stores referring to 36 luxury brands including big names such as Burberry, Saint Laurent, and Céline. Burberry and Dunhill had the most store closures in China of all the brands during that period.
China has seen 62 net closures of luxury brand stores during the surveyed period, the largest number observed by Bernstein among all significant geographies. The firm viewed the trend as a revision of the over-expansion, in previous years, of luxury brands into the Chinese market.

The rapid development of the country’s luxury industry fueled by affluent Chinese consumers has given luxury brands unrealistic projections of retail sales in the past. This over-estimation, according to Bernstein, has led them to aggressively open retail stores in China that exceeds consumers’ real purchasing power. The same situation occurs in the Middle East region, another area where luxury consumption is rising fast.
Globally, the number of the net store openings by luxury brands has also for the first time run into the negative territory. The report said most brands have more or less closed some of their stores in the department stores, a traditional channel that accounts for about one-third of these brands’ global sales.

Chinese consumers have demonstrated some remarkedly different purchasing behaviours from that of the West. According to Pierre Gervois, a leading expert about wealthy Chinese travelers’ shopping behavior, and founder of the prestigious STC magazine “Western luxury brands have been warned since 2010 that their projections about affluent Chinese consumers were grossly exaggerated.” “Brands refused to acknowledge that their future Chinese customers would buy in overseas stores  rather than in domestic stores, both for tax reasons but also because of the poor customer service in their Chinese stores”, Gervois added.

Another distinguishing habit that sets Chinese luxury consumers apart from Westerners is their huge interest in buying luxury items online. Over the past year, an increasing number of luxury brands have embraced the e-commerce marketplace and launched stores with the country’s top two players, Alibaba and JD. Moreover, big names like Louis Vuitton and Gucci even opened their own Chinese e-commerce stores to ensure their offerings meet the expectations of Chinese consumers. And then there’s the nature of luxury itself, the meaning of which is different to younger consumers from what it was to their forebears.

Another concern that Western brands cannot officially recognize in China, is that a growing part of affluent millennials Chinese are moving from government-censored social media (WeChat, Weibo…) to Facebook and Twitter throughout an increasing use of VPN’s. That makes much less relevant their communications campaigns on Chinese networks.

Source:  Chinese Tourists in America Blog / JingDaily Blog / Jenny Zhang / Ryan Yu

U.S. Retailers now more widely accept WeChat Pay and Alipay, China’s leading mobile payment solutions

WeChatPay - China Elite FocusCitcon, the integrated payment and marketing platform, announced a strategic partnership to enable brands in North America to accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are the most popular and convenient payment options for Chinese consumers to purchase goods and services. Adding these payment options to retail point of sale allows brands to now tap into an even larger revenue stream from Chinese consumers who are the largest spender, and fastest growing traveler segment to the North America. The platform enables brands to optimize revenue growth without the costs and hassles of establishing a business entity in China.

WeChat Pay is a fully integrated payment solution within WeChat, the world’s most popular mobile social communications service with 936 million active users and Alipay is a super lifestyle app run by Ant Financial Services Group with more than 450 million active users. Together these platforms jointly account for 90% of China’s mobile payment market share. Both super apps allow users to book a trip, hail a taxi, order food, purchase movie tickets, pay for water and electricity bills, manage investments, perform transactions on e-commerce websites and more to create a cashless society.

“China is changing fast. Mobile payment is the new frontier of commerce and China is leading this trend. By providing an integrated and easy-to-use payment solution, Citcon is creating a future that takes payment and marketing to the next level, empowering global merchants to drive business growth with millions of Chinese consumers.”said Chuck Huang, Founder and CEO of Citcon

As the first payment partner of WeChat Pay and Alipay, in addition to major credit cards such as UnionPay, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, Citcon is a one-stop shop for merchants to connect with Chinese consumers and accept payments anywhere. Citcon’s stand-alone mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), easy-to-integrate API and software products empower merchants to optimize growth both online and offline, with an easy and affordable rate compared to credit card processing. In addition to the convenient payment solutions, merchants will also be able to gain in-depth consumer behavior insights, manage business performance, run marketing campaigns, guides users to merchants stores while saving their shopping preferences for future visits and manage lifetime customer loyalty programs.

“Accepting WeChat Pay is a smart move for U.S. Retailers. That will definitely help with the category of budget-conscious Chinese travelers who choose to travel in groups. But they must keep in mind that the most affluent categories prefer to pay with their international credit cards, who show their status when traveling overseas and offer more perks in terms of miles and reward points.” commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a media group specialized in luxury travel publications for very affluent Chinese outbound travelers.

Source: Citcon

Wealthy Chinese travelers favor boutique hotels when traveling overseas

STC Display 2016Among the biggest trends among China’s luxury travelers is the growing popularity of boutique hotels, according to the ILTM Asia event in Shanghai.
With 60 percent of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) reporting that they spend over 3,000 RMB (US$441) per night when they stay at hotels, the future looks bright for luxury hotels catering to China’s growing number of high-end travelers. While large luxury chain hotels remain dominant on the list of HNWIs’ preferred accommodation providers, the report finds that HNWIs now increasingly favor boutique hotels—a clear significant shift from the trend just a few years ago.
For wealthy Chinese travelers, The Ritz-Carlton was the most popular hotel group in 2016, followed by the Banyan Tree, the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Fairmont and the Peninsula. The luxury boutique hotel group Aman also broke into the top 10, and Chinese HNWIs’ favorite boutique hotel brand, Banyan Tree, keeps climbing on the list of hotel brands preferred among luxury travelers. Hilton, while not topping the overall list, still remains the preferred business hotel for survey respondents. Ritz-Carlton, which tops the list, also has the by far most popular membership scheme among overall luxury travelers and millennial luxury travelers alike at 33 percent and 31 percent membership rates respectively. In comparison to airline membership schemes, hotel membership rates remain low among China’s wealthy. Nevertheless, Ritz-Carlton’s jump in membership rates by 19 percent compared to the year prior indicates that there is substantial interest in membership schemes among luxury travelers given the right incentives.

Advertisement Tower - Gervois Hotel Rating May 2017 featuring Pierre GervoisAccording to Pierre Gervois, Expert in marketing to affluent Chinese outbound travelers and Publisher of the prestigious STC magazine, “High Net Worth Chinese outbound travelers’ behavior pattern is now exactly the same as other HNWI travelers from the U.S. and Europe. They want sophistication, exclusivity, and experiences that money only can’t buy”
Among the biggest trends among China’s luxury travelers is the growing popularity of boutique hotels. With 60 percent of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) reporting that they spend over 3,000 RMB (US$441) per night when they stay at hotels, the future looks bright for luxury hotels catering to China’s growing number of high-end travelers. While large luxury chain hotels remain dominant on the list of HNWIs’ preferred accommodation providers, the report finds that HNWIs now increasingly favor boutique hotels—a clear significant shift from the trend just a few years ago.
For wealthy Chinese travelers, The Ritz-Carlton was the most popular hotel group in 2016, followed by the Banyan Tree, the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Fairmont and the Peninsula. The luxury boutique hotel group Aman also broke into the top 10, and Chinese HNWIs’ favorite boutique hotel brand, Banyan Tree, keeps climbing on the list of hotel brands preferred among luxury travelers. Hilton, while not topping the overall list, still remains the preferred business hotel for survey respondents. Ritz-Carlton, which tops the list, also has the by far most popular membership scheme among overall luxury travelers and millennial luxury travelers alike at 33 percent and 31 percent membership rates respectively. In comparison to airline membership schemes, hotel membership rates remain low among China’s wealthy. Nevertheless, Ritz-Carlton’s jump in membership rates by 19 percent compared to the year prior indicates that there is substantial interest in membership schemes among luxury travelers given the right incentives.

While authentic and unique experiences are highly sought after by China’s luxury travelers, the same applies to a much lesser degree in terms of accommodation. Only 25 percent of HNWIs interviewed for the report had even considered Airbnb-style accommodation options, and instead preferred private boutique hotels and yachts when considering options other than brand hotels. In fact, only 30 percent of respondents said that they have the impression that Airbnb-style rentals allow them to better experience local life—arguably defeating the purpose of rentals for travelers that put little importance on cost-effectiveness. “I think that in a close future the category of luxury Airbnb’s will attract the youngest generation of Chinese HNWI. Now is the right time for Airbnb owners to promote themselves in China”, Pierre Gervois added.
Instead, boutique hotels seem well-positioned to benefit from Chinese HNWIs’ lust for authentic and unique travel experiences. With accommodation cost of little concern for these travelers, boutique hotels certainly have an exciting future ahead of them in China’s luxury travel market.

Source: ILTM Asia / Skift / Jing Daily / Ritz Carlton