Centara Enjoys Growing Popularity Among Chinese Guests

Centara Hotels and Resorts Enjoys Growing Popularity Among Chinese Guests

Thailand’s leading hotel chain, Centara Hotels and Resorts, which operates 13 properties in Thailand and five international properties in such places as the Maldives and Sri Lanka, is one of the most popular hotel and resort chains in Thailand for Chinese guests. However, Centara, whose flagship property is the impressive Centara Grand at Central World in Bangkok, is taking active steps to attract even more Chinese guests.

Mr. Jason Lu, the company’s group director of sales in China and northeast Asia, says, “For the China mainland market, Q1’s sales have achieved a 120% increase compared to the 12-month-total of 2012. Personally, I forecast a 200% increase if we look at it on a 12-month basis.”

Such astonishing growth does not come by accident. Rather, Centara has been aware for several years that the greatest potential for growth in the tourist market to Thailand lies in mainland China (and in overseas Chinese markets like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore). Talking about the steps the company has taken to lure more Chinese guests, Mr. Lu says, “Centara has created our official Chinese brand name and localized logo with Chinese characters. And we are going to open our own Sales & Marketing office in Shanghai within the year (probably in operation by November). So we are expanding our sales network into China directly, establishing our brand awareness and we are expecting more direct cooperation and bookings from the Chinese market.”

To further increase sales to Chinese guests, Centara plans to create a specialized Chinese-language website. Mr. Lu says, “Currently we do not have a Chinese website, only the booking engine has the Chinese-language support. However, as we are going to launch our Chinese name and office, this part is one of our confirmed projects.” In addition to creating a Chinese name and website, Mr. Lu says, “Starting from this year, we have started to establish some strategy partnership with some of big players in the Chinese market to promote our products from the group side, for example Ctrip, CYTS etc.”

Of course, setting up a website and a local office is not sufficient to guarantee high levels of satisfaction and brand loyalty among Chinese guests. Mr. Lu stresses the fact that it is important to provide specialized services that meet the needs and wants of Chinese guests. “Some Chinese guests have limited English-language skills,” he says. “If the hotel has Chinese speakers on staff, it will be easier to convince the guest to try some of the hotel’s other outlets.” Currently, Centara has Chinese-speaking staff at their properties in Bangkok, Phuket and the Maldives, areas where they already experience a lot of Chinese bookings. However, the company aims to expand their Chinese-language staff as part of its campaign to increase bookings from mainland China.

Fortunately for Centara, the number of Chinese visitors to Thailand has been sharply increasing year-on-year for the past several years. More Chinese citizens visited Thailand than any other nationality in the first half of 2012 (accounting for 1,124,234 visitors) and the number of Chinese visitors to Thailand is growing at an astonishing pace (up 28% over the same period of the previous year). This growth has continued into 2013, aided in part by the popularity of the film Lost in Thailand in China. Mr. Lu says, “I think [the film] benefited the whole market. TAT’s official figures confirmed a 94.45% total Chinese tourist increase for first 7 months [of 2013]. We are forecasting a more than 200% sales increase in 2013 for the Chinese market as well. The movie is the best advertising for Thailand tourism.”

It is clear that Centara is very well positioned to reap the fruits of the surge in Chinese visitors to Thailand. By understanding the special needs and interests of Chinese travelers and by specifically targeting that market, Centara is likely to enjoy continued increases in bookings from Chinese guests and the number of repeaters is sure to increase.

By Chris Rowthorn, China Travel Trends Bangkok Correspondent

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