This week, InterContinental Hotels announced plans for a China-specific chain which will eventually set up shop outside of the country, highlighting yet again that China’s growing economic might is having an interesting effect on the way we travel.
Thanks to the staggering statistics (outbound trips from China alone are projected to grow from 10 million to more than 100 million in the next 10 to 15 years), hotel chains are keener than ever to ensure that Chinese guests feel at home in their properties.
Fortunately, many travelers will find that all of the concepts identified by chains such as IHG make for a nicer hotel stay anyway — here, a handy guide to what you’ll soon find at Chinese-friendly hotels.
Expect rice, and lots of it. Many hotels outside of China are now opting to serve congee for breakfast and throughout the day — it’s basically a rice-based porridge, served with accompaniments such as fruit or honey.
Many hotels are also opting to plump for noodle dishes — IHG’s chain Hualuxe will offer a late-night noodle joint, while Starwood is offering its Chinese guests instant noodles in rooms.
Tea — especially green — is a favorite of Chinese-friendly hotel chains. Expect to find in-room kettles with a selection of Chinese tea on offer in Hilton hotels offering the ‘Huanying’ Chinese welcome package, as well as Starwood properties and Campanile in France.
Some brands will take this even further, with Hualuxe promising ‘Tea Lounges’ where guests will be invited to entertain visitors or business partners. If you’re partial to the mini-bar, you could be in for a shock — reports suggest that Hualuxe will skip alcoholic beverages in favor of tea.
Status and respect underpin many Asian cultures and chains operating outside the country are making it abundantly clear that they are keen to serve Chinese visitors, rolling out Chinese-speaking front-desk staff and plenty of literature in Chinese, for instance.
For those running hotels inside China, it’s a race to localize — with Accor-owned Mei Jue promising staff in elegant Qipao evening dresses and Hualuxe promising ‘hosts’ dotted around the hotel to ensure a high level of service for guests.
‘Modern Chinese’ styling is coming to dominate hotels inside China, as well as influencing the design of those outside the country. This means eschewing replicas of ‘traditional’ Chinese objects such as Ming vases in favor of clean lines and a modern style which only hints at its forebears.
Look out for decor inspired by natural themes such as woodland, water and mountains, especially in conjunction with the growing ‘green’ trend enthusiastically embraced by properties around the world.
Specific services designed to appeal to Chinese travelers will become standard in the coming years — Tai-chi sessions, for instance, are a popular way for hotels to connect with their guests.
In a similar vein, expect more hotels to embrace Chinese-style relaxation aids, whether that means lobby gardens or lavender-scented bathroom amenities.
As hotels are regularly used for business meetings in China, expect to see more ‘multi-purpose’ areas that can be used for meeting, entertaining and unwinding — and perhaps even a karaoke bar along the way.