Hilton Worldwide’s Rob Palleschi, Global Head, full service brands and
Hilton is actively targeting the Chinese inbound travel market with its Huanying program, already available at 113 hotels in 32 countries. Tell us more about that.
PALLESCHI: The word Huanying is derived from the Chinese word for welcome. In the past few years, many Chinese travelers – more than 50 percent – are booking a hotel without a tour guide. This means travelers are on the road independently, and Hilton wants to meet the needs of the world’s current largest outbound travel group.
BT: What can a Chinese guest expect in a Huanying program hotel?
SCOFIELD: At check-in Chinese travelers receive a welcome note in simplified Chinese. They’re provided access to a 24-hour Mandarin interpretation service, and many properties have Mandarin-speaking team members as well. In the room, they will find tea kettles with jasmine tea, slippers and a dedicated Mandarin television channel. A Chinese breakfast buffet in the restaurant includes two varieties of congee with condiments, fried rice or noodles, a selection of dim sum, soy milk, and appropriate service items.
BT: What hotels are participating?
PALLESCHI: In our global
portfolio, hotels that are part of the program include Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts in major cities like San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Seoul, and NewYork, plus a number of airport properties, including the Hiltons at Chicago O’Hare, London Gatwick, Heathrow, and Vancouver airports.
BT: How are hotels chosen to participate?
PALLESCHI: It is important that we look at hotels that are commercially viable for the program, meaning where Chinese travelers are already visiting. Other hotels are choosing to opt in as well. There is a small cost involved for the hotel to insure that they can provide the in-room amenities, but the Chinese travelers does not pay anything more to participate.
BT: Is Huanying attracting more Chinese travelers?
PALLESCHI: Yes. The San Francisco market alone has seen a 22 percent increase in inbound Chinese travelers visiting Hilton properties thanks to new nonstop flights from Chengdu and Guangzhou. Among all Huanying-participating hotels, the Hilton Worldwide brand has seen a 15.3 percent year over year growth in Chinese visitors.
BT: How does the hotel know a traveler fits the profile for the Huanying experience?
SCOFIELD: It is based
on their home address registered with the booking. While a guest can request Huanying services, the goal is to automatically recognize Chinese travelers that would appreciate the amenities.
BT: How do Hilton properties prepare to introduce the Huanying program?
SCOFIELD: We have internal education platforms including Hilton Worldwide University. Each department has their own specific training courses. For example, the front desk is educated about specific sensitivities such as the number four having a negative connotation. We try to avoid placing Chinese guests on the fourth floor or in any room with a four in it.
BT: Besides the large number of travelers, why is Hilton putting such an emphasis on attracting the Chinese market?
SCOFIELD: According to recent surveys, Chinese travelers have named Hilton the most aspirational hotel brand in the market. In addition, recent changes to the visa policy for inbound Chinese travelers coming to the US will change the landscape for the domestic hotel market. Hilton Worldwide also has the largest pipeline of hotels in the Chinese market, which is what adds to the Chinese traveler’s familiarity with our brand.