IHG says 2017 was its strongest performing year since 2010

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has been ramping up its expansion efforts in Asia Pacific, with the recent opening of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay in October, as well as the introduction of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants in Indonesia and Greater China. The group also expanded its EVEN Hotels brand into Greater China.

Acquired by IHG in 2015, luxury boutique hotel brand Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, targets travellers seeking a sophisticated yet personalised lifestyle travel experience. On the other hand, IHG’s wellness brand EVEN Hotels, which was launched in 2012, caters to travellers seeking more options to stay healthier and happier away from home. This is done by offering healthier food choices, natural and relaxing spaces, as engaging wellness savvy staff.

In a conversation with Marketing, Leanne Harwood, VP, operations, IHG, Southeast Asia and Korea, said economic and infrastructural developments, strong foreign investment and continuing efforts by local governments to boost tourism industries have resulted a rise in visitor arrivals across Asia Pacific.

As such, IHG is seeing a growing demand for quality accommodation from travellers such as city-hopping Millennials and high-end luxury travellers. Moreover, there is also a rise in disposable incomes and consumers becoming increasingly sophisticated and discerning. Hence, IHG saw the opportunity to expand its hotel brands and cater to travellers’ needs.

While Harwood declined to disclose details concerning IHG’s expectations of revenue within the region, she stated that in terms of overall company performance, 2017 has been a “great year and [its] strongest since 2010”. As such, the company is positive about 2018, and is setting its eyes on major sporting events in Asia Pacific such as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia.

When asked about the growing popularity of boutique hotels and the likes of Airbnb, she explained that IHG remains undaunted and steadfast in continuously engaging consumers in Asia Pacific with targeted brand campaigns.

Given the diversity of the SEA region, Harwood said IHG places heavy emphasis on working closely with its in-market colleagues and on-ground hotel teams to gather insights on guest preferences, consumer trends and the local media landscape when planning and executing campaigns.

Moreover, to keep up with the digital landscape, IHG will begin the regional roll-out of its new guest reservation system, which features a cloud-based booking platform that offers guests a more personalised experience, as well as allow its hotels to manage and sell rooms more effectively.

“Our key challenge when marketing to Southeast Asian consumers is to ensure that our offerings and campaigns across all consumer touchpoints can effectively engage and resonate with local audiences in relevant and meaningful ways, while staying true to our core identity as one of the world’s leading hotel companies,” Harwood said.

This year, it launched “Stories of the InterContinental Life” global brand campaign, in a bid to draw people into the experience of Club InterContinental. Club InterContinental revolves around modern sophisticated living, thoughtful details that create unforgettable experiences and personalised service. Ogilvy PR, JWT and Mindshare were involved in the campaign, which will run online, print and out-of-home through 2018.

Part of the campaign features the video “Sophistication: A Sensory Experience”, which showcases Takanori Nakamura, an internationally acclaimed gastronomic connoisseur and academy chair, Japan, The World’s Best Restaurants Academy.

Joining the conversation, Lara Hernandez, chief commercial officer of Asia, Middle East and Africa at InterContinental Hotels Group, said IHG chose to work with Nakamura because of his appreciation of fine detail, craftsmanship and passion in the culinary world, which is mirrored in its Club InterContinental experience.

Hernandez added that there is a need for inspiring, relatable content that not only captures consumers’ imagination, but mirrors their own values and understanding of luxury. “IHG wanted to shine a light on unique stories and storytellers worldwide to help demonstrate the set of values that lie at the heart of the InterContinental brand and Club InterContinental experience,” she said.

She explained that the campaign also uses a variety of different media including podcasts, video content and animated illustrations to tell each story in a heartfelt and memorable way. The film showcases Nakamura exploring Singapore’s colourful and thriving culinary culture, from the city’s Michelin star restaurants to iconic hawker hotspots. The campaign films also feature Beijing, London and New York.

Meanwhile, one of IHG’s hotel brands Hotel Indigo, also unveiled a three-month multi-channel digital campaign “Neighbourhood 15”. The campaign shines the spotlight on the neighbourhood of each property, showcasing local neighbourhood gems within a 15-minute radius of the hotel and celebrating inspiring neighbourhood stories integral to each hotel’s personality. “Neighbourhood 15” is complemented by a series of behind-the-scenes Facebook videos and a social media competition.

To target tech-savvy Millennials, three Hotel Indigo hotels in Southeast Asia will also incorporate the use of an online chatbot dubbed the “Hotel Indigo Neighbourhood Host” via Facebook Messenger. The chatbot will offer guests with destination-specific information and recommendations such as dining suggestions, itinerary planning and places of interest.

Meanwhile, Holiday Inn also unveiled Little Big Travellers, a content hub offering directions to child-friendly sights and family activities in popular cities and tips for travelling with children. Additionally, the IHG brand is also targeting families with young children with its family-friendly activity known as Chatterbox Conversation Cards. Launched across Asia, Australia and the Middle East, Chatterbox Conversation Cards targets families and young travellers ages three to 12 years old and contains 30 conversation-prompting cards to stimulate reasoning, logic, creativity and problem-solving abilities in children.

“Asia Pacific is a key market for IHG, and we will continue working closely with our valued partners to expand our presence across the region – by both introducing new brands to the markets to meet a wider spectrum of traveller needs, and increasing the presence of our existing brands to cater to the growing demand for quality accommodation in the region,” she said.

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