Universal experience

InterContinental Hotels Group is planning to create a new upscale brand that will be positioned between Crowne Plaza and the luxury InterContinental brand (Graham Ruddick, http://www.telegraph.co.uk, 15.02.2011)

This is no surprise at all. The travel market is reaching its all time high and it was predicted that China will become No.1 tourist market within seven years, according to UN World Tourism Organization Secretary General Taleb Rifai (Normandy Madden, AdAge.com, 26.01.2011). In fact China received 53 million foreign visitors in 2010, putting the country in third place after overtaking Italy three years ago. With the diversity of the profile of the travellers coming into China, there are still plenty of rooms to craft out a position in the market. Adding complexity (and opportunity) to this is that a huge proportion of travellers are actually coming from different provinces within China, their expectations and requirements are uniquely different from the travellers coming from the western countries.

Andrew Cosslett, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels, suggested a bespoke approach was sometimes the best option and even argued that they don’t need a global brand all the time (Roger Blitz, ft.com, 15.02.2011). I think there are two sides of the arguments here.

Hotel brands by nature are different from other products and services, instead of having a standardised image in different market; it should allow the establishment to be in tune with the neighbourhood by injecting local flavour and ambience, so that the hotel in Tokyo essentially should engage the consumers slightly differently with the one in Russia. The challenge is, however, to create a core value that represent the hotel brand, not just for the sake of consistency, but so that when travellers choose where to stay, there is a high brand recall because of a certain expectation or aspirations.  Aloft Hotels from Starwood have a strong music and technology focus creating a unique hotel experience for the design-conscious, Generation Y consumers. InterContinental Hotels Group has formed a partnership with Apple to introduce the iPad as part of its concierge service, drawing in the interests from the frequent travellers who crave efficiency during their stay.

While the definition of global brand is certainly changing, the fundamental challenge remains the same. We may not need the old fashion way of managing a global brand, but creating a global brand personality certainly has its benefits.

Photo by: Louie Chow