By partnering with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, Marriott International hopes to expand its footprint in China and attract a growing and more affluent group of travelers.
Speaking from the new W Shanghai Hotel, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said the partnership will allow the hotel company, now the largest in the world, to tap into Alibaba’s more than 500 million monthly active users across all its platforms.
With Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, it now has a larger presence in China, with 36 hotels in Shanghai alone and 300 open and operating throughout the country. Another 300 hotels are in the pipeline.
“We think we have a very strong position in this country but to continue to grow it and retain it as a strong position requires us to grow much more deeply in the Chinese consumers’ eyes and in the digital relationship with Chinese consumers,” Sorenson said.
Through the joint venture, Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott will have a storefront on Fliggy, Alibaba’s travel service platform. Marriott will be able to market directly to Alibaba’s customers from the time they start planning their trip, throughout the duration of the trip, and upon their arrival back home when they want to share their experiences.
The platform will also provide a link between Marriott’s loyalty programs and Alibaba’s loyalty program.
Marriott will be able to curate content, programming and promotions for the Chinese traveler, the company says.
“It is something that we think will help us each both identify customers and provide a broader level of services,” Sorenson said. “We will be dealing with reservations, we will be planning travel. We will be dealing with the booking and identification of experiences that can be arranged when people are visiting, all of which can be digitally enhanced.”
China has become a lucrative market for hotel companies because its growing middle class is traveling more often and spending more on those trips. China’s travelers are expected to take an estimated 700 million trips over the next five years, Marriott says.
“More people have a better lifestyle and they are traveling all over the world,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group. “Chinese people, when they go to other…