Wanderlust is a regular series where we speak with a notable individual from the travel industry.

Born and raised in the vibrant city of Shanghai, David Sun has risen to incredible heights in China’s hospitality industry. Following an eight-year stint studying marketing and working in Australia, Sun returned to the Middle Kingdom, where he’s continued to have an exciting career. After taking over as director and CEO of Homeinns Hotels Group in 2004, Sun led the hotel company to become China’s first hotel group listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in 2006. Now, as the CEO of BTG Homeinns Hotels (Group) Co., Ltd, Sun is actively leading the company through the challenging times created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sun shares with us how hotels adapt during tough situations and offers insight into the Chinese hospitality industry.

Image provided by BTG Homeinns Hotels Group

The hospitality industry in China has shown signs of recovery last month. When do you think things will get back to ‘normal’?
After the epidemic is over, we expect there to be a two to three month period before things will return to normal, as travelers will still be recovering psychologically from the coronavirus. For the hotel industry, it takes around three to six months to recover, depending on the guidance of the government, which could help shorten the timeframe.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, many hotels served a non-travel-related purpose by accommodating COVID-19 patients and medical staff. What does that say about the importance of hotels?
At the onset of the epidemic, medical workers were marching against the tide and fighting on the frontlines. In the early days after the city of Wuhan was closed, figuring out accommodation was difficult for medical staff. We quickly cooperated with Wuhan proprietors, and did our best to coordinate hotel resources nearby hospitals to provide full support for medical staff in Wuhan. We had nearly 600 hotels nationwide participate in epidemic prevention work, accommodating more than 20,000 patients and medical staff. 

We not only assisted medical staff, but also ensured everyone underwent a successful quarantine period. At that time, there was an opportunity for us to launch in-house quarantine hospitality services, which provided rooms for those in housekeeping. We were quick to launch the service after just one night of discussion, so guests could be well accommodated.

The government also expected companies to take appropriate quarantine measures for the community and the feedback was very good. We helped lead the entire industry in introducing similar services. This was a major convenience for those returning to work in the city, proving that hotels are in a unique position to provide essential services during difficult times.

Regarding BTG Homeinns, what is the scope of your operations?
BTG Homeinns Hotels Group Co. Ltd. has nearly 20 brands and 40 services. We have more than 4,000 hotels in more than 400 Chinese cities, covering high-end, leisure, business travel and franchise hotel operations. Major cities and regions, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou-Zhejiang-Anhui region, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Pearl River Delta and Sichuan and Chongqing account for 59.5% of our hotels.

What do you think hotels need to do to have success in the Chinese market?
First, hotels need to bring a better experience and more enjoyment for traveling guests. So, on the most fundamental level, a hotel should ensure that the experience, service and efficiency are done right. Secondly, there are also some aspects that can be improved using innovative methods, such cleanliness, design, management, participation and feeling. Hotels also need to have character. For small-to-medium sized enterprises, the character of the hotel needs to be taken into heavy consideration. Combining all these features with quality products and services will bring guests unique experiences. 

Marketing is also at a premium given the current public health crisis, so we also need to make use of these resources and get more creative with livestreaming and other opportunities.

This interview has been translated, and edited for clarity and brevity.

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[Cover image via Pixabay]