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

Is Louis Vuitton too popular in China?

Being popular is proving to be a bad thing for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton in China. The brand sells so well there, which is its second-largest market in the world, that it is becoming too common.
Lately, instead of China’s wealthy, the middle class has been fueling sales at Louis Vuitton.
There are tens of millions of Chinese women who aspire to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag and millions are actually buying it.
Their desire to save up to buy a Louis Vuitton is becoming a double-edge sword for the brand. It means it will have years of growth there as incomes rise but its mass appeal also risks undermining its exclusive positioning.
The truth is that Chinese High Net Worth Individuals no longer wanted to buy Louis Vuitton. As a woman in Beijing, who is worth billions, said, “Louis Vuitton has become too ordinary. Everyone has it. You see it in every restaurant in Beijing. I prefer Chanel or Bottega Veneta now. They are more exclusive.”
Soaring wealth and obsession with luxury products provides huge opportunities for luxury retailers. The number of Chinese millionaires are estimated to more than double in the next five years. According to the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, a luxury travel club for Chinese billionaires, 200,000 Chinese travelers in 2010 had the ability to spend more than $150,000 in shopping abroad during their leisure trip.
These super rich Chinese consumers are causing challenges for Louis Vuitton and other historically dominant players like Zegna and Omega to maintain market share because the truly wealthy no longer want to buy the same fashion brands everyone else has.
Wealthy consumers looking to differentiate from the masses provide an opportunity for luxury brands like Chloe, Hermes, and Patek Philippe that target the ultra rich. They are moving more towards inconspicuous consumption in handbags and apparel while becoming more flamboyant in auto purchases and jewelry to show status, which is why sales there of Ferraris and Lamborghinis are soaring.
One wealthy man in Beijing told me, “Everyone can buy Louis Vuitton now, but not many can buy a Bentley.”
To stave off competition from very exclusive brands, and premium brands like Coach , Louis Vuitton is going to have to spend more on marketing to maintain its exclusivity. So far it has kept ahead of the curve, launching multi-story flagship stores in key shopping areas and marketing initiatives in conjunction with the Beijing National Museum.
Celebrity endorsers like Angelina Jolie also help add luster. These initiatives are key to maintaining status but will become increasingly costly, squeezing margins, as rent and labor costs go up.
Louis Vuitton’s parent group, LVMH , should consider more acquisitions at the higher end to capture wealthy consumers tiring of its flagship brand. It has bought stakes in Hermes but should try buying high-end brands outright to capture the truly wealthy segment.
China is the market to win for luxury brands. Despite the rocky global economy the demand for luxury products continues to soar. Brands need to understand that China’s ultra wealthy are becoming more sophisticated and not just looking for flashy logos and brands that everyone has. Brands also need to understand that buying abroad in New York City, London or Paris is a true sign of social status for Chinese consumers: Buying in Shanghai or in Beijing shopping malls is not “cool” anymore for Chinese: It just show that you can’t afford to travel.  At the uber rich level, there exists the opportunity to capture market share by differentiating the brand. Three years ago, everyone wanted Louis Vuitton. That is no longer the case.