InterContinental’s China chief Kenneth Macpherson on growth trail

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 October, 2014, 9:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2014, 4:46am

Kenneth Macpherson was appointed Greater China chief at InterContinental Hotels Group at the start of last year and became a member of the group's executive committee soon after.

He is mainly responsible for the management, growth and profitability of the global hotel group's fastest-growing region, which comprises the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Macpherson manages a portfolio of 216 hotels and oversees the development of a further 186.

He joined InterContinental from British beverage giant Diageo, where he had worked for more than 20 years. He has extensive experience in sales, marketing, business development and operations. He also brings to the group substantial expertise in Chinese and international business operations.

At Diageo, Macpherson served as managing director of the China market. Before moving to China in 2005, he led the development of the firm's China strategy. He has also worked in Singapore, Britain and South Africa, and he speaks fluent French and conversational Putonghua.

 

Do you have any plans to add more hotels in Hong Kong?

We devised a strategic development plan after we assessed the existing portfolio across 200 cities in China. With that plan, our development team will seek out management contracts with owners. The 10th hotel under our management in Hong Kong, the Holiday Inn Express in Mong Kok, will be opened in the first quarter of next year. Our new Crowne Plaza in Macau will also open soon.

 

Besides management contracts, will InterContinental consider investing in Hong Kong hotels through equity ownership?

Our strategy has been going asset-light. All hotels except the InterContinental Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui are operating under management contracts in China. Our business model is that we partner with property developers, which will use our brands and pay us to manage their hotels.

A key advantage that we offer to the owners is our global reservation system for advance booking. We constantly invest in our platform so that we can manage the movement of global travellers or travellers in the region or Hong Kong into our hotels in a much more profitable way.

In future, we will continue to actively explore opportunities with our existing and new partners across the whole territory. We are a long-term committed player in the region.

If a situation arises in which we think we can deliver extra returns to our shareholders, we can look at it, but we are still pursuing a brand-heavy, asset-light strategy.

 

Are any discussions under way to sign up new hotel management contracts in Hong Kong?

Yes, we constantly discuss property or new hotels with our partners. With a portfolio of hotels operating more than 3,000 rooms in Hong Kong, we are the largest international hotel group in the city.

 

How many brands does InterContinental operate now?

Our five main brands in the region are InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn Resort and Holiday Inn Express.

And we will have 24 hotels in the pipeline to be operated under a new brand, Hualuxe, to cater for mainland travellers. The first two Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts properties are slated for opening by the end of this year.

 

Can you tell us more about Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts?

Catering to mainland consumers, Hualuxe understands the specific demands of mainland travellers and provides a uniquely Chinese hospitality experience with the consistency, scale and expertise of an international hotel management company.

 

Where are they located?

InterContinental has added nearly 7,000 rooms to the Hualuxe pipeline across China, including major destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the key emerging markets of Chengdu, Kunming and Wuhan.

 

What is your view on the hotel market outlook on the mainland?

We have a long-term commitment in the region as this is our 30th year on the mainland. InterContinental was the first international hotel to enter the mainland, with the opening of the Holiday Inn Lido in Beijing in 1984.

 

How many years have you lived on the mainland?

I have spent 10 years on the mainland and am settled in Shanghai now. Of those 10 years, seven have been in Shanghai and three in Chengdu.