InterContinental Hotels Plc, the world's top hotelier, expects to open a new brand of hotels specially developed for the Chinese market in 2012 or 2013, an executive said on Monday.
IHG announced its intentions to launch a hotel brand for the booming Chinese travel market earlier in the year, in line with moves made by other foreign multinational companies such as Hermes International that launched a Chinese luxury brand, Shang Xia, last September.
"Our first hotel is coming online 2012, 2013," said Keith Barr, IHG's chief executive for Greater China, in an interview with Reuters.
"There are thousands of years of history that have shaped their culture, their backgrounds and their beliefs -- the way that you should arrive at a hotel and be treated, it's just different," Barr said.
The new hotel chain will target business travellers, state-owned enterprises and Chinese government officials. Barr said the company's intensive research of Chinese consumer preferences would help shape hotel services to make them different than other Western-run hotels.
Some of the differences include a smaller hotel bar and bigger teahouse space to facilitate social gatherings, and a Chinese restaurant that is open for dining all day. It will also feature a grand lobby to cater to Chinese preferences for luxury.
Barr said IHG would position the new brand in the high-end Of the market, similar to Crowne Plaza, and may move the brand overseas. IHG has 145 hotels in China and the firm launched its boutique brand, Hotel Indigo, in Shanghai late last year.
"There are going to be 100 million Chinese tourists travelling abroad in the near future and if we build a brand locally here that really resonates with them, it will be prudent business for us to move that brand outside of China over time," said Barr.
IHG also sees the new Chinese brand being launched into fast-growing second- and third-tier cities in China where new rail connections and airports are making it easier to reach for domestic tourists.