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„Die Ansprüche der Reisenden sind so hoch wie nie“

Das sagt Yuan Fang, Senior Vice President Development Europe and Americas der NH Hotel Group. Ein Gespräch über den internationalen Hotelmarkt. Und darüber, wie sich seine Reisen(den) verändert haben.*

Yuan Fang, Senior Vice President Development Europe and Americas der NH Hotel Group

Yuan Fang, Senior Vice President Development Europe and Americas der NH Hotel Group, die unter dem Dach der Minor Hotels agiert. (Foto: Minor Hotels)

* Enjoy reading this elevatrInterview in english!  

elevatr: Yuan Fang, you have been a part of NH Hotel Group since almost ten years. How have the challenges in the hospitality industry changed over the years – especially regarding development?

Yuan Fang: The trend towards internationalisation and consolidation in the hotel industry has been steadily growing. This trend will continue to shape our industry, pushing hotels to adapt to inflation and macroeconomic uncertainties. To stay competitive, hotel chains, including NH Hotel Group under the umbrella of Minor Hotels, are striving for more synergies and efficiency. In our case and with Minor Hotels' strength, we have reduced our debt and focused on luxury growth, particularly in the urban segment through our brand Anantara and in resorts via Tivoli. Additionally, we see ourselves as pioneers in embracing technology and Artificial Intelligence, aligning with the industry's current trends like automation, talent organisation, and the implementation of protocols for health and safety.

How has NH Hotels as a large company adjusted to changes that come with automatization and AI?

The Group is transitioning to a fully-integrated digital platform, NH Digital Core Platform. This solution integrates all hotel systems, enhances customer knowledge, maximises tool efficiency, and fosters large-scale innovation across various areas. Within this platform, AI plays a vital role, enhancing customer service in reservation and group centres, optimising supply and demand management, refining business projections, and even improving security measures by detecting suspicious patterns. Looking forward, we are committed to further exploring machine learning and AI technologies to enhance personalization.

Is the development of areas like Europe and Americas different to other regions? Especially regarding target groups and customer needs and experiences?

When it comes to development, it doesn’t matter if we do it in Europe, America, or Asia, what matters is the feeder market we want to target, the segment in which we seek to position ourselves, the city in which we want to do it and the location where the hotel will be. And, finally, the existing competitors. Targeting an Asian client is not the same as targeting a southern European, just as it is different if we are talking about a leisure trip or a business trip. Nor is it the same to open a destination hotel itself or an urban hotel, just as it is not the same to do so in an area where there are no more hotels than to do so on a street that has ten other hotels. Therefore, when we open a new hotel, whether in Europe or America, we analyse all these issues – feeder market, segment, type of customer, city, location, competition – to meet all the needs of the travellers who will visit our hotel.

What are the advantages of big hotel brands regarding development in all these markets and what makes your strategy successful?

Our structure and our local and global teams allow us to reach more territories and more segments with more brands. In this way, not only do we have a lot of resources when reaching new destinations, but we know the local markets very well, and we can offer different options reaching all types of travellers.

The upper-upscale and luxury travel segments are experiencing exceptional strength, and we have a robust, internationally consolidated offering in these segments. This gives us a strategic edge in these high-value markets. Crucially, our portfolio includes flagship-owned assets. These assets provide stability and assurance to our investors, enhancing their confidence in our ventures.

Also, our group's efforts in cost control and management over the past two years have allowed us to adjust our pace and harness synergies with Minor Hotels, enabling robust global growth. In fact, our local know-how now allows us to have an even more efficient cost management for the group. Plus, we have greater commercial strength following integration.

Moreover, the professionalisation of relationships between owners and operators in the last two years has been pivotal. We've embraced a common language, recognising that seamless collaboration is key to maximising asset value for both parties involved. This mutual understanding has bolstered our partnerships, ensuring mutual benefits by increasing the competitiveness of the agreements reached in different distribution channels.

Additionally, our entry into the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) and the implementation of its Discovery loyalty program have been game-changers. Transforming our NH Rewards loyalty program into NH Discovery has helped NH Hotel Group to be part of one of the world's ten largest loyalty programmes, boasting 800 hotels and 23 million members.

What are customer expectations of the future and how will the hotel industry have to adjust in order to meet them?

Today’s traveller is way more demanding in all aspects. Among other things, we see that the new traveller will look for:

Sustainability: Consumers are searching for “sustainable experiences”. We have a specific sustainability criterion that all our hotels must follow, and we have developed some initiatives such as eco amenities, renewable energies, sustainable F&B or green mobility, among others.

Wellness: Travel is expected to put mind and body wellness at the forefront with a fully immersive and sometimes unconventional approach. Trips will be rooted in relaxation, self-improvement, and wellbeing. As the world reimagines the way we value our health and our environment, wellness travel is seeing a sharp rise in popularity among tourists, whether local or international.

Local integration: We perceive a clear decline in traditional mass tourism in favour of more sophisticated tourism, in search of unique experiences and integration into the local culture. The traveller wants to experience unique and tailor-made moments, instead of those more touristic and massive experiences. This is something we are offering in some of our hotels: local and unique experiences.

Digitalization: Guests want to manage all the details of their journey themselves, tailored to their needs, so companies must adapt to these new consumers. In this sense, we have already launched mobile guest services and smart tablets in reception among other initiatives.

Bleisure: Teleworking has meant a change in the lifestyle of many people, giving rise to the so-called digital nomads, who can work from anywhere and for whom the boundaries between work and leisure are blurred.

What will NH Hotel’s hotel portfolio look like in the future and why?

Nestled under the Minor umbrella, NH Hotel Group boasts a global presence with 530 hotels across the world. We're deeply immersed in a bold expansion plan driven by three core objectives: Firstly, we're strengthening our presence in the luxury segment, with our experiential brand Anantara and Minor's extensive expertise in that segment. Secondly, our focus extends to enhancing our presence in luxury resorts, notably celebrating Tivoli's 90th anniversary, and strategically positioning ourselves in key Mediterranean locations. Lastly, we're strategically growing in the urban segment from upscale to luxury across major cities in France, UK, Nordic countries, and main USA cities with special focus on Miami, territories where we have a new dedicated expansion team and are actively seeking opportunities.

Our expansion strategy is marked by adaptability. We embrace various types of contracts, signing Hotel Management Agreements (HMA) and franchises, while also considering leases and strategic acquisitions for specific projects. This approach allows us to explore diverse venues, ensuring that our expansion is not just comprehensive but also finely attuned to the unique demands of each venture.

Interview: Verena Usleber

More about 

Minor Hotels owns, manages and operates a diverse portfolio of over 530 hotels, resorts and branded residences across six continents. The continued growth of Anantara and Avani Hotels & Resorts, and the acquisition of brands such as NH Hotels, nhow Hotels, NH Collection, Tivoli Hotels & Resorts, Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites and Elewana has placed it in key markets throughout the world.