Simon Cooper: Marriott Prepares Big China, India Hotel Growth.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 25th May 2011
Just how profitable is the Asia hospitality industry? The outlook seems endless; China and India together currently have the most hotel rooms underdevelopment (aside from the United States), according to a report from STR Global.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association recorded over 100,000 rooms under construction in China as of the end of January and over 30,000 rooms under development during the same time period in India.

As growth in the hotel industry continues to skyrocket in Asia, hotel groups are checking rooms off their list and making calls to new construction sites and development lots in a move to outperform each other.

International hotel brands including Starwood, Hilton and Marriott are vying for the top spot in the market, building one hotel after another, it seems. Hilton, which has been out of the Asia market for nearly 20 years, is introducing almost 100 new hotels in the coming years.  

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is planning over 80 new hotels in Asia through 2011 and Marriott International is planning to almost double its presence in China over the next five years, including the opening of the Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa in June 2011.

No question about it: Asia is primed to become the darling for hotel development.

A few months ago, I interviewed Simon Cooper, President & Managing Director, Asia Pacific for all Marriott brands, to get his perspective on how the market is shifting, and what plans lie ahead for further development in the world's most profitable region.

Here are his thoughts:

Melanie Nayer: How has the Asia hospitality market progressed over the past 5 years, specifically in China?

Simon Cooper: In China, it's the most dramatic change. There's no doubt that with the development of new infrastructure and the hosting of significant events including the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. India has always had a strong hospitality sector. Basically though, it was targeted at luxury leisure customers who were touring India. There wasn't a lot of business travel and that has changed significantly in the last few years, especially in second-cities and suburbs -- those areas are serving the growing business environment in India.

Nayer: What are the key drivers of growth in the market?

Cooper: Obviously, it's the domestic market. The expression "Made in China" is now "Made for China" -- there is a huge domestic consumer market reach, both in leisure and business travel.

Nayer: How do you plan to differentiate the Marriott brand from other luxury brands in China?

Cooper:  For Marriott brands, JW, Courtyard and Renaissance are the key brands we're using in the market.  If you look at Marriott International distribution in some areas it's excellent and we'll continue to build out in those key markets. Shanghai will be up to 23 Marriott brands - the largest market from the hotel point of view - in 2011.

So, what does the future hold for Marriott brands in Asia? According to Cooper, the answers lie with the next generation.

"In these states, the baby boomer market is a very important market. In China, there are very few baby boomer travelers. The Gen X and Y are way more important [in China] as travel consumers and they definitely have more discretionary income -- 80% of wealth in China is in the hands of people under 40."

And from the looks of things to come, this generation has great taste in hotels.

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 4Hoteliers.com
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