With domestic Chinese travel projected to increase 25 percent over the next two years and outbound tourism expected to jump by even more (144 percent by 2020), the luxury hotel industry, unlike most luxury verticals, is all but assured healthy Chinese demand for the next several years, at least. Another Chinese consumer ‘sure thing’ is increased use of digital, and more specifically, mobile. Findings from our new China Hotels supplement, however, show that the vast majority of global hotel brands are not prepared to reap the benefits of this very lucrative opportunity. Of the 17 Hotel brands in the Index, almost all offer a Chinese-language option via their global site, yet less than a fifth translate international property pages into Chinese. Worse still, 29 percent require booking completion in English, no doubt impacting conversion rates and perhaps even deterring travelers from choosing that hotel in the future.
Some brands have made minor attempts to cater to Chinese travelers, but in some cases, these half-hearted attempts only highlight what’s missing. Waldorf Astoria, for example, offers just one Chinese-language property site, for its Shanghai location, out of 28 total property sites. The brand’s unintended message is, we’re thinking about those Chinese traveling to China (or within China), but not the Chinese traveling out of China. Wyndham is another domestic-focused brand; its standalone Chinese site only promotes and facilitates booking at its Chinese properties.
For a closer look at what the luxury hotel brands included in this supplement do and (mostly) don’t offer on their sites, click on the infographic below:
All isn’t bad news, though. All of the brands in the report except for one, Sofitel, offer Chinese-language customer service, which is a huge improvement YOY, and nearly two-thirds now have an on-site loyalty program (often at the conglomerate level and with varying levels of digital sophistication). Localization beyond this, though, is limited. And when it comes to what is arguably the most important part of the online process — paying for the reservation — brands have been very slow to adapt. Unlike here in the U.S., having multiple major credit cards, or even one, is far less common among the cash and check-favoring Chinese. This is slowly changing, but in the meantime, retailers and service industries must do their best to accommodate consumers. In the hotel industry, this accommodation leaves much to be desired. Presently, only Marriott accepts local credit card China UnionPay and no hotel brands accept fapiao, a government-issued receipt that confirms purchases and tracks tax payments, or Alipay, China’s PayPal equivalent.
The last and not insignificant nitpick about hotel sites in China is load time. The average across all prestige verticals is a slow 24.1 seconds, but among hotel sites it’s an even slower 28.6 seconds. Between not being able to read the language on a site, pay for a reservation, or browse a flash-heavy site in a reasonable period of time, it’s a wonder that Chinese travelers even want to leave home.