Chinese PR Case Studies – Hilton Hotels

Hilton opened its first Chinese hotel in 1988. Now, Hilton Shanghai is just one of over 100 hotels serving international and domestic tourists, as well as catering to business needs (source: Bloomberg). A combination of ambitious expansion and carefully planned Chinese PR has seen the company become a successful player in the Chinese market.
Let’s take a look at how Hilton Hotels have used Chinese PR to build their brand.

History of Hilton Hotels in China

Increasing brand awareness has long been part of the Hilton strategy for China. As well as catering to a large and growing market of domestic tourists, the brand wants to create a strong impression. In less than a decade the number of Chinese citizens travelling abroad has grown by 5.5 million. Hilton want to make sure that there is only one brand in mind for Chinese travellers looking for somewhere to stay whilst abroad.
While many major companies were playing it safe during the tough years of the financial crisis, Hilton identified the strong growth potential in China. In 2011 Hilton had only four hotels in China; by the end of 2013 there were almost 50 (source: China Business Review).

Adapting to the Chinese market

Meaning ‘welcome’ in Chinese, the Huanying campaign is a program specifically designed to cater to the needs of Chinese guests. On launch it was adopted by over 50 locations. Based on extensive research, hotels taking part in the Huanying program are equipped to offer everything the Chinese traveller needs to feel at home and looked after whilst abroad.
Hotel front desks are staffed by at least one Mandarin speaking staff member, while rooms include two pairs of slippers, a welcome letter in Chinese, an electric tea kettle (so that guests can boil rice or noodles) and a Chinese language television channel. The hotel breakfast menus have also been updated to include traditional Chinese dishes, including noodles, fried rice, and dim sum (source: Hotel News Now).

Award winning Chinese PR campaign

In 2012 Hilton’s Huanying launch campaign won PR Daily’s Best PR Campaign in the $100,000+ category (source: PR Daily). The program tied into the brand’s aim to become the hotel destination of choice for Chinese travellers whilst abroad. It had several aims, as not only was it important to build awareness with Chinese travellers, it was also important to gain the support of senior government officials who make the travel policies.
The program was launched to the media, agencies and dignitaries at an event at Hilton San Francisco Union Square which was also broadcast live across the world. The event was reported in publications such as the China Economic Times, and gained a total circulation of 261.2 million copies. The launch event was replicated in China, in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (source: American Business Awards).
The Hilton commissioned a study from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London into the impact of Chinese tourism on Europe, creating valuable data. This was presented at a special event in London, which attracted almost 40 VIPs from the travel industry, including members of parliament and tourism government officials. The event generated almost 4.5 million media impressions. The campaign has created a strong relationship with the Chinese press – the number of Chinese reporters enrolling in the Hilton’s press release distribution program increased by 45% in the wake of the campaign.
As well as gaining widespread exposure, the Chinese PR campaign saw an increase in bookings. Hilton hotels participating in the Huanying program saw an increase in room bookings, rates and revenue which hit double digits.

How to do Chinese PR like Hilton Hotels

While you may not have upwards of $100,000 to spend on campaigns, the true success behind the Hilton’s efforts relies on the same basic principles you can use when marketing to China. The company took the time to understand the market and identify the needs and wants of Chinese travellers. Once they had created an offering that catered to the market, they used a number of PR strategies that focused on building relationships, not only with potential customers, but also influential figures and the press. These are all things you can do with a fraction of their budget.

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