Shangri-La Hotel Group is doing a fantastic job of engaging Chinese customers online and providing them the means to learn about and book Shangri-La properties throughout the country.

The brand has the largest following on its Sina Weibo and Youku accounts of any hotel brand, a highly rated Chinese iPhone app that hosts competitions, and the only iPad app in the Chinese iTunes store in Chinese.

These are the findings of L2’s Digital IQ Index: China, which ranked Shangri-La Hotel the highest out of 17 global brands for digital competence. The brand; however, has a clear advantage over Western brands with its base in nearby Hong Kong.

Gaping opportunities

While global hotels focus on rapid expansion in China, they are missing a critical component of the battle online.

The China Hotel Pipeline

Hotels that cater to Chinese travelers on the ground with language-native staff and culturally-sensitive amenities should be doing the same online with a strong presence on Chinese social media channels, translated property pages and booking processes, and payment platforms that accept UnionPay credit cards.

Several of the most notable findings of the report on the 17 brands including Marriott, Hilton, Westin, Four Seasons, Sofitel, and more, are as follow:

    • Marriott is the only brand to accept local UnionPay credit cards. None of the brands included in the study accept the two most popular Chinese payment solutions: fapiao and Alipay.
    • Sina Weibo has a hotel booking application, Hotel Assistant, but none of the brands use its on their main page.
    • Chinese online booking sites like Ctrip and Qunar are doing a better job of online advertising than hotel brands. Ctrip is purchased against 94 percent of hotel brand terms on Baidu, China’s most popular search engine.
    • Hotels are also missing a major opportunity to capture the outbound international Chinese market: 18 percent of hotel sites do not translate their international property pages into Chinese and 29 percent require booking completion in English.
    • Almost 100 percent of global hotel brands are on YouTube, but only five brands update accounts on their YouKu and just one is on Tudou. Watching videos is the number one online activity for the more than 500 million Chinese on the Internet.

Hotels are far behind retail brands in creating a presence and platform to engage and serve Chinese customers online. Hotel brands are less involved than L2’s list of 100 prestige brands on every Chinese online platform with the exception of Sina Weibo and Kaixin.

Payment Options Across Chinese E-Commerce Site

Social Media Adoption

Photo Credit: A Shangri-La Hotel property page is translated into Chinese. Shangri-La Hotel Group