Accor aims at booming mainland market
Accor, the largest international hotel operator in the Asia-Pacific region, aims to have 400 hotels on the mainland by 2015, more than three times its current portfolio, as it steps up efforts to explore the fast-growing domestic tourism sector.
The Paris-based hotelier, which originally sought to have 136 hotels by 2013 in China, currently has 120 under management across 47 Chinese cities, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
It will meet the target by the end of this year when its total number is set to hit 145, according to Michael Issenberg, the group's chairman and chief operating officer.
The number of 400 by 2015 includes those that will be operational then and hotels that will still be under construction.
Accor relaunched its Grand Mercure brand in Shanghai on Tuesday to offer tailor-made products and services for China in the hope of attracting more domestic clients, who currently account for about 80 per cent of the company's total hotel guests on the mainland, up from 30 per cent 10 years ago.
The Chinese version of Grand Mercure, known as Mei Jue in Mandarin (meaning 'pretty and upmarket') showed Accor's ambitions to expand aggressively on the mainland, though Issenberg described the situation as 'difficult' after the Shanghai World Expo ended in 2010.
'The Chinese economy is going better than European and North American economies,' he said. 'It has been difficult but it's getting better.'A study by Jones Lang LaSalle found that big international brands would fuel a 30 per cent increase to the local room supply between 2012 and 2013, making the competition even more cut-throat.
Issenberg said the mainland hotel market would increasingly become a domestic market, and mainland travellers would become the key driving force for the global hoteliers. 'We will tweak the brand to make sure we are locally relevant,' he said.
Accor aims to operate 65 hotels using the tailor-made Chinese brand by 2015. InterContinental Hotels, the world's largest hotel chain by number of rooms, which has the largest China presence among international hotel brands, also plans to launch a China-specific brand next month.