In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Michael Henssler, President of Kempinski Hotels in China, has spoken about NUO, the first luxury hotel brand created in China for Chinese consumers.
When most international luxury hotel chains are expanding, especially in Asia, you have recently announced stopping your development with the 30th hotel in China, by 2015. Will the NUO project take the place of future openings?
As a Quality driven company, you are certainly correct in the fact that Kempinski will be limiting its growth to keep its exclusiveness as well cherishing its European heritage.
This is where NUO comes in. In an ever-growing market such as China, which is dominated by Western Hotel brands, NUO will offer a refreshing alternative and offers promising growth with the first deals in Beijing and Shanghai being confirmed.
You have developed a partnership with a state entity in China, to create a new Chinese luxury hotel brand, NUO. What were the reassuring motives behind your decision?
Over the last 25 year, we have built up a very deep and trusting relationship with our joint venture partner Beijing Tourism Group. The success of this relationship has lead us to venture new paths together. Our position and knowledge of the Chinese market will help us in building up NUO nationally with the goal of international expansion in the coming future.
Which are the main challenges facing luxury hoteliers doing business in China?
The immense growth in recent years which has and will continue to attract many international operators as well as a growing number of domestic brands, has already lead to a noticeable oversupply in certain cities. This is where quality will become the differentiating factor as price is not anymore the single most deciding factor for Chinese customers, who become more selective and quality conscious.
To what extent NUO will relate to luxury lifestyle?
NUO aims to disseminate the noval lifestyle and attitudes of modern China while honoring its culture heritage and supporting contemporary art and culture.NUO is advocating lavish lifestyle luxury culture and art tailored for the new generation and aspiring Chinese leaders. As a matter of fact the lifesyle manager will appear firstly in China, in NUO hotel.
What are the key elements that make up the NUO hospitality concept?
It’s pioneering Chinese hospitality, “Chinese-Style” service, namely international standards, local flavours and adding values. For instance, Guests will be taken from the airport to the hotel in a characteristic and iconic Red Flag Sedan and reroute can browse through a tea menu for personal favourites and find it ready in their room upon arrival.
What will be the expansion model for NUO? i.e. management versus ownership. Will you consider expanding the NUO brand outside China?
NUO will open its flagship hotel in Beijing in 2015; after which the second property in Shanghai will follow based on an Art Deco theme. Over the next few years, NUO plans to open landmark properties in first-and second-tier cities in China as well as in major cities around the world. As such, NUO will become the first truly authentic luxury Chinese Hotel brand for foreign visitors to experience Chinese hospitality at its best.
With Chinese spending more abroad on luxury hospitality than in their own country, how will NUO change this trend?
This is certainly a trend that will continue in the coming years, despite the domestic market becoming ever stronger. Therefore, while focusing on the Chinese market to set out and establish our base, we are most certainly eager to grow on an international scale to cater to those Chinese that expect the same level of service they receive in a NUO within China, elsewhere in the world.
Besides architecture and cuisine, which are the key Chinese features which you consider as innovative and which will be implemented with the NUO brand?
NUO will grow on the roots of Chinese history following the culture idiosyncrasies of each city in which it operates. The first flagship hotel in Beijing will feature Modern Ming “literati culture” and the Shanghai property will be based on an Art Deco theme following sensual linear design. Chinese Hospitality will be the innovative theme of subtle yet impeccable service that will be the red thread throughout the NUO experience.
With large metropolis markets such as Shanghai and Beijing being oversupplied, what will be NUO’s positioning?
The word oversupply for Beijing and Shanghai might not be exactly true, certainly not for the market that NUO is targeting. In fact, we consider ourselves to be the exclusive international hotel group with boutique touches offering true Chinese Hospitality. Certainly brands such as Four Seasons and Shangri-La are very competitive, yet we do believe that the NUO experience will be second to none and create strong brand loyalty.
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