Amid aggressive expansion plans across Asia, Marriott International’s regional VP of luxury brands, Bruce Ryde, says the days of mass incentive rewards are over – and brands should focus on creating authentic experiences.
On track to double its luxury footprint in Asia Pacific, Marriott International will add nearly 100 luxury hotels to its current portfolio of 120 hotels across the region.
Leading the charge is Bruce Ryde, vice president of luxury brands and brand marketing in Asia Pacific, who says, despite the size of a company like Marriott, luxury all creating personalised experiences.
We sat down with Ryde at ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore this month to discuss the group’s growth pipeline and what it takes build luxury brands in an increasingly crowded market.
Tell us more about Marriott’s expansion plans for the luxury portfolio and what it means the APAC region?
We’re using our strategic advantage and leveraging that fact that we have eight differentiated luxury brands to expand throughout the region. The luxury market is very segmented and customers are becoming more segmented, so we can at least provide eight different experiences underneath the Marriott International Luxury umbrella.
We have 100 hotels in our luxury pipeline in Asia Pacific, of which 50 per cent are in China. But certain markets are waking up in terms of development – Australia being one of them. W Brisbane (opening June 01) will be our first luxury hotel in Australia so it is a really big moment for us. We also have W hotels set to open in Melbourne and Sydney, and the return of the Ritz Carlton brand to Australia with a new property opening in Perth.
From a brand-building perspective, having new product in Australia is important to us because the outbound in Australia is so strong. It’s one of our strongest source markets for Asia so when we open W Brisbane it will have positive ripple effects on the likes of W Bali, W Bangkok, W Singapore, W Shanghai – it will give us the profile we need. And same goes for Ritz Carlton as it’s not a high profile brand in Australia.
The fact that we have so many hotels in the pipeline shows there is a realisation from owners that our brands and our central strength give us an advantage in terms of signing – it’s not about being big, but it does play into owners’ thinking from a distribution perspective.
With so many hotels set to open in China, what’s your strategy in the Mainland?
It differs according to the brand, but what’s interesting about China is that traditionally big luxury brands would only open up in tier-one cities, but this isn’t the thinking anymore. The tier-two cities are maturing so quickly and we see potential for some of our luxury brands – but there is still room in the big cities.
In the next few months we’re opening a Bulgari and an Edition hotel in Shanghai, which follow the opening of W Shanghai last year. We’re also opening another W in Xi’an in Q4, and this will be a true experience for the disruptor, we’re not going to marginalise the experiences because it’s a tier-two city.
What does it take to be a successful luxury brand marketer today?
Attention to detail. I’m fanatical about the way we say things, the way we photograph our hotels, the way we present ourselves. Eye for detail, passion for luxury and, in a company like Marriott, it’s also important to look beyond our product and understand what’s going on in the big wide world. It’s about taking the best of the luxury world and incorporating it into your thinking as well as innovating yourself. Competitor knowledge and luxury trends are also important.
What luxury trends have you seen in the incentive sector across Asia?
There’s now an approach in the incentive industry where high achievers want to be rewarded with something at appeals to them personally – not mass incentive rewards. And this appeals to our brands and the depth of the experiences we offer.
Our partnership with PlacePass is great as it provides thousands and thousands of experiences and we’re going to do more with that association, particularly with the luxury brands and through our loyalty programme.
And if great experiences are around memories (and generally they are), incentives are about memories as well. We need to keep evolving experiences for the incentive market to make them more memorable. It’s not about bigger and better, which frankly, is what incentive travel used to be – lavish dinners, lavish gifts and flying business class. It’s got to be more than that these days. It has to focus on building experiences.
Coming soon across APAC:
- IRAPH SUI, a Luxury Collection hotel, opens in Okinawa, Japan in 2018
- The Tasman will open in 2019, marking Marriott International’s debut in Tasmania
- W Brisbane open on June 01, marking the re-entry of the brand into Australia
- W Kuala Lumpur opens in 2018
- W Xi’an opens in Q4 2018
- JW Marriott Hotel Seoul will relaunch in 2018 following an extensive renovation
- JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa opens early 2019
- The Ritz-Carlton Nan’jing and The Ritz-Carlton Xi’an will open in 2019
- The St. Regis Zhuhai opens in September 2018
- The St. Regis Hong Kong is planned for early 2019
- Edition is launching in Shanghai and Bangkok in 2018