• Smaller is better: The rise of the boutique hotel

    by Caifu Global

    The world is getting smaller, and travellers who perhaps, at one time found the homogeneity of large hotel chains comforting, now desire something more, something stylish, comfortable, and most of all unique.

  • Chinese Jetsetters Seek Adventures in Exotic Places

    by Caifu Global

    China’s glitzy globetrotters – guided by their smartphones throughout their travels – are now taking the world by storm.

    Around 56 percent of China’s high-net-worth individuals surveyed by the Hurun Report in 2014 say they like to spend their leisure time exploring new countries and experiencing different cultures. These travellers plan 18-day trips on average, spending around U.S. $150,000 per trip.

    “Experiential travel rather than just shopping tours are becoming more popular now that the Chinese consumer has traveled more widely,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher.

    According to a 2016 report, Asian investment bank Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA) has forecasted around 200 million Chinese will take overseas trips by 2020. In their annual travel survey, CLSA researchers have found around 71 percent of Chinese have sought travel inspiration via social media sites such as WeChat and Weibo. Others sought out information about their dream destinations by consulting with their friends and family.


    Maldives: The Gucci Handbag of Holidays

    Maldives has soared in popularity among China’s super rich in the past couple of years because of its white, sandy beaches, deep blue seas, tall palm trees and numerous reefs. Chinese travellers are setting their sights on the Maldives as a destination-wedding site and for their honeymoons.

    “The Maldives is the Gucci handbag of holidays,” Mifzal Ahmed, director for strategy and business development at Mega Maldives Airlines, a private carrier that caters almost exclusively to Chinese tourists, told the South China Morning Post in January 2015. “People want to have a better answer if friends ask them: 'What will you do during Chinese New Year?’”

    Due to its tropical climate, the Maldives is an all-year destination, Mohamed Faisal, Maldivian ambassador to China told China Daily in January 2016. Maldivian authorities are forecasting around half a million Chinese will visit the country in 2016 to experience its unique culture with Arabian, Sinhalese and South Indian influences.

    Malé, Maldives’ capital and its most populous city, is home to the majority of its cultural attractions like the presidential palace, Sultan Park, the National Museum and the Malé fish market.

    Resorts across the archipelago paradise are catering to their Chinese clientele by developing itineraries jam-packed with activities like fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing.

    They are also offering small guesthouses on uninhabited islands with private pools, along with safari boats designed like a hotel on the sea. Currently, the country has 180 safari boats, and construction workers are building an additional 40 safari boats per year to meet demand. These all-inclusive rooms cost around U.S. $200 a night.

    Booking an island getaway has never been easier, as airlines continue to increase the number of direct flights between Maldives and mainland China – including Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenyang and Zhengzhou – each year. Chinese tourists do not need a visa to visit Maldives’ thousands of islands.


    Antarctica: Take the Polar Plunge

    Antarctica was the destination of choice in 2015 for Chinese super travellers, according to the 2015 Hurun Report. The South Pole may be one of the last frontiers of travel, but Chinese tourists currently make up one in every 11 arrivals to the icy continent, travel guide publisher Lonely Planet reported in February 2016.

    shutterstock_190364057AApproximately 34 percent of wealthy respondents who went to the South Pole over Spring Festival in 2015 said in the Hurun annual report they wanted experience its magnificent crystal desert landscape and its rare wildlife. The travel season to the continent runs from November to March.

    “The recent popularity of Antarctica for the Chinese traveller shows how much experiential travel is now on the cards,” Hoogewerf said.

    Travelling to the seventh continent may be the most arduous part of the journey. Most vacationers arrive by boat through the Drake Passage, a treacherous stretch of ocean between the southern tip of South America and the northernmost reaches of Antarctica.

    As a land of extremes, Antarctica offers all travellers plenty of opportunities to play in the snow, mingle with penguins, swim in its icy waters near Deception Island, kayak around icebergs and hike its stunning glaciers.

    Travellers do not need either a visa or a passport to visit Antarctica because no nation owns the land.


    African Safaris: Stray off the Beaten Path

    African countries have seen a major boost in Chinese tourism revenue since the beginning of the decade, thanks to increased investment, more direct flights, and strong promotional efforts by African tourism boards.


    South Africa saw a huge increase of Chinese tourists in January 2016, as arrivals from China grew by 93 percent, according to data from Statistics South Africa. To accommodate this trend, South African tour companies have added Mandarin-speaking guides and have translated their promotional materials into Chinese.

    According to Kim Nixon, managing director of Asia to Africa Safaris based in Singapore, safaris are becoming more popular with mainland Chinese clients, as they continue to seek unique travel experiences. “There has been a rapidly emerging interest in more adventurous and eco-tourism focused travel to high-quality, safari hotspot African countries from the Chinese market.”

    All safari first-timers from China want to see a variety of animals, Nixon added. Some clamour for walking safaris, while others have gone on canoeing safaris and request to sleep under the stars before retreating to comfortable accommodations.

    “Africa is one of those amazing destinations – especially east Africa and southern Africa – mainly for game viewing,” Rudi Steele, a Naperville, Illinois-based travel specialist told Fox Business. “If you go on a safari once, you would think you would get it out of your system, but when it comes to Africa and safari, it pulls you back; people go over again.”

    Kenya and Tanzania are preferred destinations for the Chinese because of their visa-on-arrival service. South Africa is also a popular choice because of several direct flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg.


    Australia: Explore a Land Down Under

    If money is no object, then the Chinese will be on the first plane to Australia for an extended holiday. Chinese travellers have Australia in their sights because of the country’s relaxed attitude and nature offerings, reported the CLSA 2016 survey.


    Sydney, Australia’s most cosmopolitan city, has embraced Chinese tourists by offering tours in Mandarin while climbing up its iconic Harbour Bridge, as well as karaoke at the bridge’s summit during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.

    For the first time, more than a million Chinese travellers visited Australia in 2015. Visitors from China have more than doubled since 2010, according to February 2016 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    The lower Australian dollar has spurred tourism, as Chinese tourists spent around U.S. $6 billion over a 12-month period to September 2015, estimated Tourism Australia.

    “China is a vitally important market for Australia’s tourism industry growth,” Tourism and International Education Minister Richard Colbeck told the Sydney Morning Herald in January 2016. “Visitor arrivals from China grew three times faster than the overall increase in the past year, and spending increased 43 percent – double the previous year’s growth rate.”

    The Australian government has streamlined visa applications from China starting in April 2016 by granting 10-year visas to some Chinese nationals, offering visa applications in Chinese for the first time, and allowing online applications.

    “China is Australia’s most valuable tourism market,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the South China Morning Post.
    Four Unforgettable Worldwide Voyages

    Travel advisors say their Chinese clients are seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences while visiting the planet’s most exclusive locales, like relaxing like a VIP on one of Maldives’ private islands, camping with penguins near the South Pole, getting a relaxing massage after watching wildlife in Africa and discovering Australia’s famous outback.

    • Honeymooners can indulge in the finer things for a week on Velaa, a private island in the Maldives, including Michelin-star food, a nine-hole golf course designed by a Ryder Cup-winning captain, dolphin watching and access to a private submarine.

    Price: U.S. $180,000 for a seven-night stay.


    • Thrill-seekers fly to Antarctica each year in November by private transport jet, land on an ice runway, and stay at Union Glacier Camp in the remote southern Ellsworth Mountains. From there, guests travel via ski aircraft to camp at the emperor penguin rookery for five nights.

    Price: U.S. $40,700 for a nine-day tour.


    • Safari travellers can experience the real-life Jungle Book in South Africa, and spot leopards, rhinos, lions, buffalo and elephants at Kruger National Park. Afterward, unwind at the Wellness Centre at the Kapama Private Game Reserve – one of South Africa’s best safari lodge spas, or “spafari.” Guests can experience African-style pampering, soak in a tub while gazing at the elephants, or practice yoga.

    Price: U.S. $11,260 for a seven-day escape.


    • Travellers to Australia can follow in the footsteps of Crocodile Dundee by spending time in sophisticated Sydney, exploring the wide-open spaces of the Australian outback, and scuba diving and snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef with a personal tour guide and driver.

    Price: U.S. $9,864 for nine days.


  • China’s Appetite for Hotel Investments

    by Caifu Global

    By Blake Friesen

    Overseas capital accounted for 41.2% of the global hotel investments in the 12-month period ended Oct. 31, 2014, up from 34.7% in 2013 and 29.9% in 2012.  Asian investors, notably China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, accounted for 43.2% of the cross-border hotel transactions during fiscal 2014.  They prefer financing mature markets, with New York City, Hawaii and London representing 48.5% of total Asian hotel investment globally.

    China, chiefly represented by state-owned enterprises and large-scale developers, was very active in 2014, making some blockbuster acquisitions. During the year, Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese insurance company, splashed $1.95-billion on the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan on Park Avenue.  It is the most expensive hotel purchase to date in the U.S.  The savvy seller of the property, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., received a sweetener in the deal that allows it to continue managing the hotel, and collect fees, for the next 100 years.

    There are no signs that Chinese investment overseas will slow down this year.  Considering the geopolitical environment in Asia and the perceived stability in Western countries, as well as increasing outbound China tourism, the wealthy Chinese will continue to park their dollars in overseas investments.  China has already made headlines for spending billions in New York and London, and analysts now anticipate the big deals will expand to Sydney. The Australian capital is already beginning to experience activity, with Chinese investors taking note of a growing Chinese population and visitation levels, favourable tax regime, weakening currency versus the Chinese renminbi, and higher yields compared with the U.S. and Europe.  The large American hotel companies, meanwhile, have all set their sights on expansion in China.

  • Four seasons Hotel –Leading International Hotel Chain

    by Caifu Global

    Interview with Kostas Christopoulos, Marketing director of  Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

    FPO_VCR_426When Kostas Christopoulos came onboard as director of marketing at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver in 2006, the luxury hotel and resort brand had only one property in Greater China, located in Hong Kong.

    IFPO_VCR_246 copyn China, as economy grows, demands on luxury market has expanded quickly. Four Seasons took the opportunity to expand in China. Nine years later, the Four Seasons has made its presence known along China’s flourishing East Coast, with hotels in Beijing, Guangzhou, Macau, two in Shanghai, Shenzhen and West Lake.

    As China’s travellers come to Canada in droves, the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is greeting them with the comforts of home. The Four Seasons is the only hotel in Vancouver with a separate Chinese kitchen that caters corporate events and weddings. Guests can indulge in braised bird’s nest with fresh crabmeat in broth, deep fried crab claw with prawn paste, shredded dried scallop and egg white fried rice, and stuffed ling cod in bamboo piths.

    In May 2015, making a room reservation will be a snap, as the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver will launch their website in simplified Chinese. During their stay, tourists can explore Vancouver’s natural beauty by day, and relax and dine at YEW seafood + bar at night – the restaurant that put the city on the global culinary map.

    Once affluent travellers from China get a taste of the Four Seasons experience in Vancouver, they may opt to take a round-the-world journey on the Four Seasons private jet, customized to their taste and travel desires. Tickets for a round-trip ticket start at nearly CAD $145,000 per person.

    《Caifu Magazine》: Tell us about the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. What makes this particular property unique?

    Kostas Christopoulos, Director of Marketing at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver: This property is in its 38th year, so we are very proud of that. This hotel is one of only two five-star properties in Vancouver, and one of only four in Canada. We have achieved the Forbes Five Star rating two years in a row.

    The people [who work here] make the Four Seasons. Employees here have over 5,000 collective years of service to this hotel. When you think about the employees who started working at this hotel nearly 30-plus years ago, the Four Seasons has the most service years out of any hotel in the world.

    Kate Colley, Public Relations Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver: One of the Four Seasons’ biggest strengths is our people, our service and our history. The ability [of our staff] to remember people, and to remember clients’ services goes a long way.

    Kostas Christopoulos: We are always looking how we can be innovative. Throughout the year, we conduct lobby animation, such as bringing in local artists to display their artwork. We have collaborated with various local artists like the Blue Horse Gallery from Salt Spring Island.

    Kate Colley: On the first floor Zen lobby, we display different art installations. Our current exhibit symbolizes the sustainable use of our ecosystem. The Four Seasons has found a group of artists who are in line with our views. The art downstairs is a series of sculptures that depict ravens and their role as scavengers in the waterways with salmon, which goes all the way out to the Rocky Mountains. The art ties to the history of Vancouver, and British Columbia.

    《Caifu Magazine》: We are sitting here in YEW seafood & bar – an innovative restaurant with a unique twist on Pacific Northwest cuisine. Tell us more about the history of YEW. How are high-end restaurants in hotels changing the hospitality business?

    FPO_VCR_241 copyKostas Christopoulos: This hotel is also unique because of YEW, our fantastic restaurant – it is the heartbeat of the operation. When we did a renovation of the restaurant in 2008, it repositioned the Four Seasons as a contemporary product in the city. It is very vibrant. It not only helped us in the culinary industry, but also in the room side of our hospitality business. … I did not realize the restaurant would have such an impact on our overall business.

    We rebranded our restaurant as a seafood restaurant – YEW keeps the property alive and vibrant. When you look at the interior of the restaurant, YEW is indigenous to the region. The wood interior is wood from B.C. We wanted to create an experience that while you are dining here at YEW, you are in the heart of B.C. The large glass wall behind the bar is also from B.C. – all the details are so important.

    YEW is one of the top-producing restaurants and bars in terms of total sales and volume. It has created a lot of energy. When clients meet here, they see the energy here in this restaurant; they feel the buzz as they walk into the lobby … they want to be part of that. The impact has gone far beyond the restaurant in terms of the guest room side. From a culinary standpoint, it allows us to be fresh.

    Kate Colley: For such a competitive food city, you have to be exceptional – more than just your food, but what you offer in terms of the experience, the vibe, the cocktails – everything. Since shifting to the seafood concept, there is a real appetite for that in the city. Our chef walks the walk, talks the talk – he is an ambassador for the sustainability movement. If you want the environment to continue, you have to be aware. You come to a restaurant, eat amazing food, and experience a great vibe while contributing to the sustainability movement. The chef has great energy, so that feeds off our on clientele.

    《Caifu Magazine》: China is Vancouver’s fastest growing tourist market. How is the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver luring Chinese tourists – most particularly, the affluent traveler?

    Kostas Christopoulos: The timing of this is perfect, as the Four Seasons website in Vancouver will go live in May 2015 to translate content into simplified Chinese to target Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong customers. As a brand, we are working globally to strengthen our presence in China. We are still relatively small in China, but we are growing aggressively. China is one of our biggest opportunities for growth, and we hope to increase our presence there in the next 10-15 years.

    As China grows with hotels, that will benefit us here in Vancouver. We are the gateway to China. Our executive chef Ned Bell recently returned from a trip to China in March 2015, where Bell partnered with Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong on a culinary tour. This brought awareness to our hotel and our market.

    Kate Colley: The culinary trip raised awareness for British Columbia and Vancouver, and proved what the city can offer in terms of trade, tourism and opportunity. While that Four Seasons connection is strong, we are trying to do even more. We are trying to establish Vancouver is a place to visit, as a place to do trade, and a place to consider when it comes to food, wine and hospitality.

    Kostas Christopoulos: We have been seeing in the last year that a lot more Mainland Chinese affluent travelers are coming to stay at the Four Seasons. This is encouraging. At first, we did not see a big bump when the Canadian government gave preferred status to Chinese visitors coming to Canada. The Chinese website, along with our digital marketing and social media presence, will entice affluent Chinese travellers to stay at the Four Seasons.

    The Four Seasons is the only luxury hotel in the city that has authentic Chinese catering products. The hotel hosts around 15 Chinese weddings a year. The hotel launched this service, complete with authentic Chinese cuisine and a banquet service in 2011.

    Kate Colley: The Four Seasons has a customized Chinese kitchen with five high-turbo woks and steamers to produce authentic Chinese food with flavour and heat. It bridges what the Chinese market wants – the young want Four Seasons luxury, while the parents require food quality. We are the only hotel downtown who does this.

    Kostas Christopoulos: Over 20 percent of our staff speaks either Cantonese or Mandarin. We are fortunate to have staff who speaks both languages.

    We have a video of a Chinese wedding on our website to highlight our establishment as the perfect place to host a wedding.  This is our competitive advantage.

    Kate Colley: In 2012, we started the Four Seasons Private Jet experience – it is an around the world trip. A traveler visits nine destinations with a concierge team, including Beverly Hills, California; London, England; Paris, France; Mumbai, India; and Sydney, Australia within 26 days. The tour is a blend between resorts and cities. People who have gone on these trips are very wealthy. These travellers can afford a private jet, but they want the Four Seasons travel experience.

    《Caifu Magazine》: Four Seasons is one of the largest international hotels, resorts and chains in the world. How is the Four Seasons brand expanding internationally?

    FPO_VCR_392Kostas Christopoulos: The Four Seasons has 93 properties around the world. In 10 years from now, we hope to be double in size, including new builds and reflagging hotels. Some of our key markets are China and Latin America. In the Americas, we plan to open new properties in New York’s Financial District. We plan to have multiple hotels in the same city. In Florida, for example, we have several properties in Miami’s South Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. We will have four hotels in Florida within a two and a half hour driving range.

    We grow in markets where we feel there is demand from the luxury traveller. In China, the Four Seasons has properties in Beijing, two in Shanghai, West Lake, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Macau, and Hong Kong. China has a billion people – we can have about 100 hotels in China to meet demand. When I joined the company in 2006, the Four Seasons only had one property there, but that was in Hong Kong.

    Kate Colley: You can see the trend in China – the affluent Chinese community is the main driver for the development of the service industry in China. China boasts the tallest buildings with the best views. China is very competitive luxury market for us.

    《Caifu Magazine》: The Four Seasons has become one of the strongest luxury brands in the lodging industry.  How would you define luxury?

    Kate Colley: Four Seasons is a great brand that stands for luxury; stands for service. But there’s also that unstuffy, friendly aspect that allows people to work here to show their personalities; they are allowed to be empowered. It is the perfect blend of service that people really enjoy – whether that is in YEW or at the front desk.

    《Caifu Magazine》: What is the Four Seasons’ vision for the future? How will the Four Seasons look by 2020?

    Kostas Christopoulos: Our focus right now is to be the best luxury brand in the world. Our ability to grow and develop is a priority, as well as to maintain our quality of service and continue to innovate as a brand. Our priority as a brand is also to develop people internally. We will not compromise our service.

    Think about what we have accomplished as a whole, offering amenities like bathrobes, slippers, remote controls for the television, shampoo bottles – these are all Four Seasons firsts. We have always prided ourselves as an innovative brand. We set the trend. Like Apple, we need to stay in front of the competition. In order to do that, we always need to be thinking and pushing ourselves ahead.