Ascott Targets 2,000 Units under Its Tujia Somerset Brand by End 2016 to Cater To Booming Middle Class Travellers in China
CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), has today unveiled its new Tujia Somerset brand of serviced residences catered for the booming segment of middle class travellers in China. Ascott’s joint venture company with Tujia.com International (Tujia), China’s largest online apartment sharing platform equivalent to Airbnb, has sealed contracts to manage six serviced residences to be operated under Tujia Somerset brand, giving a significant boost of 1,005 units to Ascott’s portfolio in China.
At a ceremony to unveil the new brand in Shanghai, Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Ascott’s investment in Tujia is providing us with a new pipeline to manage apartments for a growing number of Chinese corporate asset owners as well as individual homeowners with multiple properties. By leveraging our Tujia Somerset brand, we will be able to spur the growth of Ascott’s management and franchise business in China. With Ascott’s expanded suite of products and services in the country, we will be in a stronger position to cater to the varying needs of property owners and guests; and rapidly increase our scale in China with the new Tujia Somerset brand along with our established Ascott, Citadines and Somerset brands. Our aim is to have 2,000 units under Tujia Somerset by the end of 2016 and this will give us the added impetus to achieve Ascott’s target of 20,000 units in China and 80,000 units globally by 2020.”
Mr Lee said: “Through Ascott’s investment in Tujia, we have been able to integrate our strengths in operating serviced residences globally with Tujia’s online capabilities to offer guests a seamless Offline-to-Online and Online-to-Offline (O2O) experience. Following the listing of our 30 properties in China on Tujia.com, our global properties will soon be available on Tujia.com for booking as well; expanding our reach to more O2O savvy customers who seek quality accommodation for leisure or work. With the rapid increase in Chinese travellers overseas and Ascott’s presence in many of the tourist and business cities worldwide, our penetration of the Chinese market through our partnership with Tujia is expected to contribute greatly to Ascott’s business globally.”
Two of the six Tujia Somerset serviced residences, the 76-unit Tujia Somerset Baiyue Dalian and 355-unit Tujia Somerset Xinhui Shenyang, are in operation. The other four properties are the 154-unit Tujia Somerset West Coast Haikou, 140-unit Tujia Somerset Shining City Wuxi, 102-unit Tujia Somerset Weilian Tianjin and 178-unit Tujia Somerset South Nanjing. The addition of the six Tujia Somerset properties will further reinforce Ascott’s leadership position as the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in China, with more than 15,000 units across over 85 properties in 25 cities.
The launch of the new Tujia Somerset brand comes at a time as China shifts to a consumptionled economy driven by the burgeoning middle class and with innovation and the Internet being major growth areas as announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the recent National People’s Congress. The growth of the Chinese middle class consumers will continue to drive demand for domestic and overseas travel.
Mr Justin Luo Jun, Co-founder and CEO of Tujia, said: “The launch of Tujia Somerset marks another step forward in our partnership with Ascott as both market leaders seek to leverage each others’ strengths to enhance our competitive edge and pole positions in China. Ascott is the world’s largest international serviced residence operator with more than 30 years of experience in managing award-winning serviced residences globally and over 20 years in China. We will be able to tap on Ascott’s vast expertise to ensure that Tujia Somerset properties are well managed. Tujia is the fastest growing online apartment sharing platform in China. Since Tujia’s launch in 2011, our apartment listings and membership have been rising exponentially. With Ascott listing its overseas properties on Tujia, we will be able to quickly increase our international reach for our customers.”
Mr Kevin Goh, Ascott’s Managing Director for North Asia, said: “China’s middle class is estimated to make up over 70 percent of its 1.39 billion population by 2030, consuming nearly US$10 trillion in goods and services – these are potential guests for Tujia Somerset. Ascott’s current three brands cater to the top tier of the serviced residence market in China, generally targeting customers with rental budgets of above RMB 10,000 per month. Our Tujia Somerset brand of serviced residences will primarily cater to the burgeoning mass market segment in China, focusing on overseas and local expatriates as well as corporate travellers with budgets in the region of RMB 10,000 per month or lower. Guests at Tujia Somerset can enjoy services such as housekeeping and breakfast at great value.”
Beijing-based Tujia’s apartment sharing site, valued at more than US$1 billion, caters to travellers looking for alternatives to hotels, for vacation as well as business travel within and outside of China. Its website features more than 310,000 apartments covering 388 travel destinations across China as well as overseas destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo for Chinese outbound travellers. Besides its online capabilities, Tujia operates some apartments for owners for a fee and franchises its business to third-party operators. As part of its joint venture with Tujia, Ascott will operate serviced apartments located within the key growth cities of China using the Tujia Somerset brand. This will include newly sourced properties and Tujia’s serviced apartments in China that are deemed suitable for conversion.
In addition to Ascott’s partnership with Tujia, Ascott has been building strong alliances with other industry leaders to expand its presence in China. In January, Ascott was the first serviced residence company to partner Alibaba’s online travel service platform Alitrip, giving it access to more than 100 million Chinese customers. Currently, guests can book Ascott’s properties in China on Alitrip and works are underway for guests to be able to book its properties outside of China by June 2016. In February, Ascott forged a strategic alliance with China’s largest construction firm, China State Construction Engineering Company, through its subsidiary Dongfu Investment, giving Ascott the first right to manage apartments currently under development as well as future projects to be built by Dongfu Investment.