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Where the Wealthy Stay in Asia.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive, Views On The Latest Trends
Wednesday, 19th September 2012

There's no shortage of luxury hotels in Asia; over the past five years, we've seen an impressive expansion in the luxury hotel market throughout China, Thailand and Japan, and the growth of the market still hasn't peaked.

InterContinental Hotels is bringing in star power to some of their already established hotels in China and Hong Kong; Marriott is still on track to open a hotel a month for the rest of the year throughout Asia; Ritz-Carlton just opened its third hotel in Japan in Okinawa; and worldwide chains including Starwood and Hyatt continue to focus on new developments throughout China.

While Asia continues to be the center of expansion for hotels, it's the luxury travel segment that amplifies their growth.

According to New York-based Luxury Institute, Asia's wealthiest prefer Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels above the others. The two new Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) surveys asked affluent Chinese and Japanese travelers for their preferences in hotels when traveling.

Japanese travelers earning at least 15 million yen per year ($190,000) evaluated 20 luxury hotel brands, and Chinese consumers with minimum annual income of one million yuan ($157,000) considered 26 luxury-lodging names.

The results:

St. Regis earns the highest LBSI score in China (8.41), but wealthy travelers visited the JW Marriott (36%) and Grand Hyatt (34%) most frequently, and are the two hotels where they plan to stay next, according to the survey. InterContinental hotels also gained favorable mention from Chinese travelers.

In Japan, luxury travelers choose Ritz-Carlton for both popularity and prestige. The Ritz-Carlton hotels earned the second-highest (7.62) LBSI score, just behind Peninsula Hotels (7.66), and Ritz-Carlton was also the chosen hotel for their next hotel visits.

The study asked affluent Asian travelers to rate hotels on a 1-10 scale of various criteria including accommodations, exclusivity, degree of status enhancement and ability to deliver special guest experiences. As part of the survey, the respondents also chose which hotel brands they planned to book this year, and whether they're willing to pay premium prices or to recommend a brand to people close to them.

The results aren't all that surprising. A recent report from the Spectrem Group confirmed what those of us in the consultancy business have been telling the travel industry for the past year: it's about the experience, not about the status.

The Spectrem Group's reports showed that luxury travelers will spend more to produce a great memory than a material item like jewelry or cars. The study highlighted the spending habits of people with a net worth of $25 million of more, and found they'll spend more time planning vacations and that nearly half of the respondents spent more than $25,000 a year on vacations or leisure travel.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for

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