Legendary Luxury Hotel Company Takes China by Digital Storm with Launch of Chinese Website and Presence on Sina Weibo

The Ritz-Carlton President Underlines Importance of Talking to Chinese Luxury Consumers in Video

CHEVY CHASE, MD, September 11, 2013 – Following a year of comprehensive research to deepen the understanding of Chinese consumers, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. has launched a new Chinese website www.ritzcarlton.cn and debuts today, a page on Sina Weibo http://e.weibo.com/ritzcarlton; the first Mandarin language social media channel for the luxury brand.

These major digital channel launches underline the commitment of The Ritz-Carlton to one of its largest growing markets, and a continued focus on the digital space. In the quest to further engage current and aspiring customers in China, The Ritz-Carlton will launch a Chinese mobile site by year-end, and there are plans to double the inventory of Ritz-Carlton hotels in China from eight to 16, within the next three years.

Social media has emerged as a powerful communications tool in China, and Sina Weibo as a leading micro-blogging website; one of the most popular sites in China. Over 30% of Internet users subscribe to the social media channel which was launched in August 2009, and currently has more than 500 million registered users posting 100 million messages each day. Sina Weibo allows The Ritz-Carlton to effectively customize content in-language, to be regionally and culturally relevant, and to showcase, educate and discuss luxury travel and the global world of Ritz-Carlton in the 80 destinations in which they have a presence.

Two sets of research were conducted, each taking six months. The first was a study was an online pathways project to understand how affluent Chinese consumers felt about our digital presence, and that of our competitors. The second piece of research focused on website designs, content structure, website navigation, digital assets, photographs, page layouts and social conversation.

“To thrive in China, a brand needs to go beyond the data and immerse itself in the culture to develop relevant marketing. The research process in China not only helped us to understand the needs of a Chinese consumer in the digital space, but also the way in which they have come to know The Ritz-Carlton,” said Ed French, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, The Ritz-Carlton. “It also helped us to make subtle changes to design that would resonate. We learned that the color blue is associated with immortality and wisdom, and so the shade of blue used was chosen for its richness and is sampled from the blue found in Chinese porcelain,” added French. “Another significant finding of the research was the high level of customer’s appreciation for The Ritz-Carlton traditions, history and heritage. There was great desire for our digital channels to reflect that tradition, while also demonstrating that we understand the online preferences in China, and that we are speaking to the audience in a way that is culturally relevant.”

Continuing his own tradition of personally interacting with the brand’s social media audience, the company’s president and C.O.O. Herve Humler recorded a personal video message for the official launch post on Sina Weibo. With sub-titles in Mandarin he shared: “Welcome to our first official Chinese social media channel where we look forward to sharing The Ritz-Carlton story with you. I personally love reading stories from our guests, and Sina Weibo is an excellent place (for you) to share them. Today, the people of China are well-travelled and appreciate luxury brands such as ours. Over the next three years as we double our presence in China, I hope to meet many of you as we come to your locations”.

Chinese tourists now represent a rapidly expanding demographic. A population that now has the funds and the freedom to explore the world on their own. Chinese consumers have changed tastes and habits and the world of luxury has become more of a lifestyle than a one-off occasion. The next wave of luxury consumption in China shows a migration towards heritage and underlying quality; both of which The Ritz-Carlton is renowned for.

*According to estimates of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, China is slated to become the world’s largest outbound tourist market, with a projected 90 million people expected to be traveling overseas by the year’s end. In addition, Chinese tourists have surpassed Americans and Germans in terms of expenditures, spending a record-breaking US $102 billion last year.

**According to the Bain & Company’s 2012 Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study, global luxury sales were estimated to reach US $278 billion in 2012, up by 10% year-on-year, of which, luxury goods sales in China were projected to reach almost US $20 billion in 2012. Bain & Company expected a 7% luxury consumption growth in China in 2012. Acceleration of Chinese consumers buying luxury products overseas is a trend to watch. It is estimated that overseas consumption of luxury goods accounted for around 60% of the total Chinese luxury spending in 2012.

For access to photography supporting this release, contact newsroom@ritzcarlton.com.

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