A study has found that Mainland China has yet to catch on to themed hotels.
Whereas themed hotels are the norm for the Disneys, Merlins and Universals when creating new accommodation, on the Chinese mainland local hotel chains are behind the curve. This is set against a background of increasing competition in the marketplace and the perception of local chains as “significantly weaker” than international hotels.
Postdoctoral Fellow Philipp Wassler and Associate Professor Kam Hung of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a co-author in a recently published research article have suggested that there is an opportunity for hoteliers to differentiate their brands by theming and gain competitive advantages.
Although China does have some themed hotels, they are far less common than in the West and tend to focus on local culture or easily copied themes. There were notable failures like the Chess hotel which relied on decor but where the staff had “no idea about how to even play chess”. A success story was the Buddhist themed hotel in Shenzhen, where guests were made to feel as though they were living in a temple.
This contrasts with foreign hotel themes which tended to be less tangible and not as easily copied.
The study also showed that whereas Chinese tourists tend to favour “futuristic and foreign-themed hotels”, foreigners prefer “retro-style” themes based around traditional Chinese culture. Similarly rural Chinese tourists prefer modern themes and those from the cities were found to prefer a “more nostalgic and simpler design”.
The researchers suggest that a local culture-themed hotel could “attract many potential guests” and would be hard to duplicate and employing local staff who represent the local culture would be another advantage. Authenticity, attention to detail and staff training creating are important in creating an immersive environment that rings true with guests.
Two main issues were identified as holding back theming. The risk averse nature of Chinese hoteliers and the less adventurous Chinese tourists who might not be prepared for “sleeping in trees, capsule hotels or prison hotels.”