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July 1, 2011

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Hotel group eyes growth in China

PAN Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG), the listed hotel subsidiary of UOL Group Limited, one of Asia's most established hotel and property companies, said it is making a good approach to double its portfolio over the next five years with China being its biggest focus for growth.

The Singapore-based company, which owns, manages and/or markets more than 30 hotels, resorts and serviced suites in Asia Pacific and North America including those under development, is keen to expand its China presence over the next couple of years with prime interests in seeking opportunities in key cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Kunming, to name but a few.

"For both the premium Pan Pacific brand and the upscale Parkroyal brand, China will be our biggest focus for growth," said A. Patrick Imbardelli, President and CEO of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which currently runs two hotels in the country with another five properties secured in its pipeline.

"Over the next three to four years, I expect China to take a third of the group's management contracts, whereas from the assets perspective, as we also buy and develop properties, China will eventually account for between one-third and a half of our business."

Under the company's latest plan, at least five properties, consisting of the 334-room Pan Pacific Tianjin, 430-room Pan Pacific Ningbo and 200-room Pan Pacific Ningbo Serviced Suites, 325-room Parkroyal serviced suites Green City, Shanghai and 200-room Parkroyal Taihu Resort Suzhou, will be unveiled between 2012 and 2014.

However, it is always more important for PPHG to make the growth at its own pace.

"We don't want to grow just for the sake of growing," Imbardelli said, adding that the growth strategy for hotels is almost about putting the right hotel with the right brand in the right place with the right partner. "To grow properly, you have to have sustainable growth which means your systems, your processes and your people must all keep up."

In the local example, PPHG set up its seventh global sales office in Shanghai about a year ago, from which the company has been seeking local talent to drive development and offer support for new hotels, resorts and serviced suites projects around the country.

While extension of its footprint, particularly in locations where its customers are going such as China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and North America, will remain one of the company's prime interests, PPHG, whose two brands both date back at least 40 years, is certainly looking for something new to impress its customers base.

Among others, an ongoing brand refreshment program which the company embarked on about two years ago in partnership with global brand strategists Interbrand and then-international branding agency The Brand Union is probably one of its most unique endeavors.

The several-million-US dollar initiative, starting with a comprehensive review of the company's two brands which involved more than 12 different focus groups and interviews with hundreds of customers and guests in important key markets for PPHG, has helped the company with a refreshed positioning for both of its brands as well as new visual and verbal identities and consumer touchpoints, all to be rolled out later this year.

The premium Pan Pacific brand, for instance, as its name also suggests, is designed to offer its guests a unique Pacific touch including elements such as blueness and calmness while the upscale Parkroyal brand, very much about being part of the local community, is set to deliver its customers the spirit and individuality of its locations through carefully chosen design, authentic creative touches and unmistakable references to the pace and style of daily living.

"Rebranding, or more like a revolution of brand, is actually a journey for us as the works about branding never end," said Imbardelli, who has more than 25 years of experience in the hotel industry. "In our industry, which is changing so fast, it's more about the way we behave and what we offer to our customers."


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