Marketing A Blend Of European Style And Chinese Culture

Bobby Ong is Kempinski Hotels' vice president, sales and marketing, China. A veteran of the hospitality trade he has worked with other major hotel groups including IHG, Starwood and Shangri-La. Ong is not a stranger to Beijing, having worked in the capital city already for eight years in several hotels of Shangri-la including China World Hotel.

How do you differentiate the Kempinski Group from other hotel groups in China?
Kempinski is a collection of individuals where our hotels maintain their own identity according to the culture of where the hotel is located.

How has the marketing approach for Kempinski changed since you joined the group?
We are now consolidating our efforts and work as a group rather than being individualistic. As a team, we could have better promotional programs with our partners. We had set up sales offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen

How has the global economic crisis impacted the group's business in China? What challenges to you foresee having to face?
As we are in the high season, we have not really seen the impact yet. Having said that, we are taking all necessary precautionary steps to ensure that we are ready when the crisis hits us

You have worked hotel groups with different origins, Starwood from the US, Shangri-La, which is Asian, and now Kempinski, which is European. What are the differences that you have observed in the approach each group takes to the hospitality business?
Each organization has different culture with different approach to reach the same destination or goal. We focus on our people as we believe that if our people are happy, they will make our guest happy who then will make our stakeholders happy.

You have worked in many locations around Asia Pacific — what was your favorite?
I work in my preferred city or location. Thus, there is no favorite location. My objective is to understand and enjoy the local culture, cuisine and it's people. With that in mind, I mix well with the local staff so that I get invited to visit places where only locals visit and eat in restaurants that cater mainly for the locals (that's where the real good food are !!)

What source markets are you focusing on (e.g. leisure, corporate travel, MICE, or FIT)? Does this vary from hotel to hotel?
Each hotel focus on different market segments. Our hotels in Beijing, Suzhou, Xian and Sanya focus on Meetings due to the large ballroom and meeting facilities that they have.

Kempinski Hotel Dalian, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Chengdu , Beijing and Wuxi concentrates on Corporate business due to their excellent location in the business district whilst Commune by the Great Wall and Boao Canal Village by Kempinski concentrates on leisure business

The Kempinski in Sanya is the group's flagship resort in China. It was one of the first to open in Sanya. What opportunities and challenges does this offer?
Our hotels that focus predominately on leisure segments are Commune by the Great Wall Managed by Kempinski and Boao Canal Village by Kempinski, also located in Hainan Island. Kempinski Hotel Sanya is our latest in China which was opened two years ago.

Hainan is a new and upcoming international destination with infrastructure still coming into place. In order to compete with matured destinations such Bali, Phuket or Hawaii, we need to have more infrastructure, more tourism promotion and more international flights. Hopefully, with almost all international brand hotels now available in Sanya, this will create awareness and interest about the island.

How do you set about recruiting, training, and retaining sales and marketing staff?
Kempinski is very focused on People management. We believe in recruiting the right people from the beginning. This will enable us to train our people and provide them with the opportunities in our growing portfolio. We provide MBA studies to our executives to groom them to be General Managers.

How do you use the Internet and e-mail marketing?
We are now focusing on e-commerce sales. We want to be available is most if not all the major third party websites. We also focus on driving business through our own website with Best rate guarantee. Each hotels has the capability to run their own e-newsletter using our systems and they can focus on e-marketing their own product to their own selected market segment. Our Global Sales Offices also uses e-marketing to focus on meetings and incentive business

What corporate social responsibility programs does the Kempinski run?
We believe that Social Responsibility is predominantly lived on a local and regional level, versus the more common approach of choosing just one global partner. Kempinski is in the people business. Any corporate social responsibility program we start would need to be a global program which is lived locally, and which adds value directly in the host country of our individual hotels. It was important for us to find global partner who would be able to act, like us, on global, regional and local levels, a partner that would fulfill international standards, and who would also welcome our continued commitment and involvement in existing initiatives by individual hotels.

In addition, we believe that Kempinki's role is not to be involved in collecting or making donations – our role is to act as a facilitator between donating guests and the relevant program, by promoting specific campaigns in our hotels.

We created a network of global social responsibility partners. This network of partners approach means that each region and every hotel can select partners to create their social responsibility programme of choice. We have entered into a global partnership program with the Stop TB Campaign, which is housed by the World Health Organisation, where we are one of their first private-sector partners. We collaborated on the Luis Figo Stop TB Campaign, which was launched on 17 March 2008 in London. The campaign is particularly relevant to Kempinski as we can offer our support in reaching a market of high potential donors for the campaign, through placing a campaign postcard on each guest's pillow as part of the nightly turndown service we provide, and by making the Figo Educational Comic Book available in Kids Clubs, and also because we manage hotels in markets where TB remains a public health concern such as in Eastern Europe and China.

What criteria does the Kempinski group use when looking for new locations and new properties in China?
Kempinski aims to be the first international brand hotel in a particular destination. Other criteria includes the size of the area, minimum guest rooms size, the size of the ballroom and the number of restaurants and bars

If you had just thirty seconds in an elevator to tell someone why they should stay in a Kempinski Hotel, what would you say?
Experience a true European luxury with local culture identity. Enjoy authentic German cuisine at Paulaner Brahaus with it's own brewery. Taste local cuisine at it's best in our Chinese restaurant.