Ritz-Carlton, the luxury hotel chain, plans to open 25 hotels around the world in the coming three years, with about one third in China and Asia, to tap the region's ballooning growth potential.
Victor Clavell, the hotel company's Asia-Pacific vice-president, said Ritz-Carlton would add at least five more hotels on the mainland, where it already had eight hotels.
'It's the fastest growing market and this is where we grow the most. And we believe that China will be one of the most important markets for the hospitality industry globally,' Clavell said.
He said the company would open a new hotel in Tianjin this year, followed by another two in Chengdu and Nanjing next year. It also signed deals to expand its footprint in Wuhan and Dalian.
'We're very well represented in the east corridor of China in all the major tier-one cities. Right now, we start to look at the tier-two cities that are growing at a much faster pace than tier-one cities. Also we're looking because our customers are growing in China in particular, which is very important for us,' Clavell said.
The chain did not disclose its average room rates in China, but it said rates were climbing steadily and outperforming its competitors.
The Ritz-Carlton now has 77 hotels in 25 countries. In Asia, it has 18 hotels, with 5,482 rooms, in eight countries.
Clavell said Chinese equated wealth with social status, achievement and recognition, and these customers wanted big luxury brand names as a way to demonstrate their success.
'We see Chinese luxury consumers becoming more sophisticated and selective over time. However, the inescapable fact is that they are spending more than almost anyone else and [it's] a vital source of business of the Ritz-Carlton in Asia,' he said.
The Ritz-Carlton opened its second hotel in Shanghai and made a comeback to Hong Kong last year, opening a 312-room hotel in the International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon three years after it closed its hotel in Central. At the hotel in Hong Kong, more than 70 per cent of the customers were clients, from the US, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Clavell said hotel sites in Hong Kong were difficult to find, and the company might explore the chance to convert the Murray Building in Central into a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
It will open a hotel in Okinawa in May and another one in Bangalore at the end of this year.