Sheraton rated as most internet-popular hotel brand in China
Sheraton Sanya Resort could be a dream luxury accommodation for Chinese netizens — the most Internet-popular hotel brand built along the country’s most popular beaches.
Sheraton is the most sought-after luxury hotel brand on the Internet in mainland China, followed by Hilton and Shangri-La, according to a recent report released by Geneva-based luxury market research firm Digital Luxury Group (DLG).
The report, called “The World Luxury Index China: Hotels,” analyzed more than 170 million Internet searches from January to March 2012. All hits were generated in mainland China, with 91.49 percent coming from Chinese search engine Baidu and 8.51 percent from Google.
Searches were made in either simplified Chinese or English.
DLG said its purpose is to reveal Chinese Internet users’ interest in — and demand for — luxury hotels.
The study also indicates that U.S. brands are best at marketing and catering to Chinese travelers.
Top luxury hotel rankings: overall and city-specific
Starwood-owned Sheraton ranks top of the list, taking up 13.58 percent of the overall searches.
"As the saying goes ‘the early bird catches the worm,’ and in this case it is true,” said the report. “Sheraton was the first western hotel brand to begin operations in China in 1985 [after the economic opening-up], and today it is the most searched-for hotel.”
The top 10 hotel brands are:
6. Four Seasons
7. The Peninsula
The report also contains three location-specific rankings, which rounds up the most popular hotel brands among netizens from Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing.
The Peninsula, Hilton and Nikko Hotels grab the top three seats in Shanghai, while Nikko Hotels, Sheraton and Hilton are the three most sought-after names among Beijing travelers. The leading brands in Chongqing are Hilton, InterContinental and Sheraton in order.
A few surprises
"It surprises me that Sheraton tops the [overall] list,” said Heiko W. Zscherp, managing partner of Hotel Consulting Asia, “because it is not really a luxury brand.”
Zscherp then added that Chinese consumers’ perception of the Sheraton brand is much higher compared with the worldwide perception of this brand, in terms of luxury.
"The ranking proves that China still works differently than the rest of the world in many ways — in terms of perception of luxury, brand values and quality of service,” said Zscherp.
On the other hand, DLG’s head of strategy and intelligence Florent Bondoux said he wasn’t surprised to see Sheraton and Hilton leading the pack because both brands also rated highly in studies conducted in Russia and the United States.
However, he didn’t expect to see Nikko Hotels standing at No. 3 in Shanghai and No.1 in Beijing and the company has yet to determine “a concrete reason” why the brand seems so popular.
Bondoux said, according to the study, there is no clear leader in China’s luxury hotel market yet as “no single hotel brand consistently made it to the top three by location, while in most other markets/segments, we usually observe a sharp dominance by one actor.”
DLG also concluded that U.S. hotel brands “have done the best job of making themselves relevant to Chinese travelers” because six out of the 10 top brands belong to U.S. hotel groups.
"While it is unlikely that Chinese travelers specifically seek out a U.S. hotel brand, it does show that they have done a good job of catering to local needs,” said Bondoux, “for example by offering a Chinese breakfast, spa, or other services found desirable by this group.”
Definition of luxury hotel brands
"The World Luxury Index China: Hotels” looks into 68 hotel labels, all pulled out from DLG’s mega “blinglist” — World Luxury Index. The index contains more than 400 luxury brands from around the world in six categories: fashion, automotive, watch, jewelry, beauty and hotel.
While enlisting candidate hotels, DLG did not draw a hard line with nightly rates or the level of facilities.
Instead each of these brands meets two requirements: it needs to associate with one or several of the leading industry organizations, and enjoy a minimum level of online awareness worldwide.
The study didn’t look into independent luxury boutique hotels. No mainland Chinese hotel brands made it to the list.
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