Ritz-Carlton aims to double China presence

HONG KONG: Ritz-Carlton, a luxury hotel brand of Marriott International Inc, expects to double its China hotel count by 2015, making the country its most important international market, its president said yesterday.

Th e chain is on track to operate eight hotels in the world’s fastestgrowing major economy by the end of 2010, and is planning another in the interior city of Chengdu by 2012,
Simon Cooper, also chief operating offi cer, told Reuters in an interview.

He said the company was looking at Tianjin and Hangzhou as the top two cities for its next China expansion, aiming to have 15 hotels in China by 2015.
Th e Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sanya, Hainan province. Th e US hotel chain aims to have 15 hotels in China by 2015, making China its most important international market. Photo by Reuters
“I think that’s a reasonable expectation given the growth we’ve seen in the last four to fi ve years,” Cooper said on his target in China.

He added that revenue per available room or revpar, a widely watched industry benchmark, was broadly up about 30% so far this year for Ritz’s hotels in China. “We’re not seeing that in other parts of the world,” he said.

Cooper’s plan is in line with Marriott’s announcement last week that it aimed to double the number of Marriott-branded hotels in China within fi ve years.

Like its US rivals Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc and Wyndham Worldwide Corp, Mar-riott is hunting for growth in other markets and is in talks to open hotels in Bangkok, Sydney and Taipei, as the company is already well represented in the US. “Th ere’s no doubt that China will probably be the top market,” he said.

“As the Chinese become more sophisticated, they will want to travel.” Ritz competes in the China luxury hotel market with the likes of global  fi rms like Starwood, Intercontinental
and Accor, as well as Asian heavyweights like Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La.

In the US, revpar for luxury hotels is recovering faster than any other segment, with levels now up around 9% from a year earlier, as Americans take family vacations. “It’s surprised us — the speed at which it’s come back this year,” he said, adding that the latest fi gures were a long way from 2007-2008 levels.

Pre-bookings in the US for the summer season are up about 5%- 10% from the same period last year, Cooper said, warning that those indicators were still fragile, with the debt crisis in the eurozone and the spreading oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico possibly hurting tourism.

Marriott International Inc, the largest US hotel company by market value, expected growth in Asia to be around 10% over the next few years, propelled by booming economies
such as China, its president said on Wednesday.

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