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Exclusive: IHG targets Australasian franchise growth

Karin Sheppard_Profile

By Karin Sheppard, Chief Operating Officer – Australasia, Japan and Korea, and head of Franchising across Asia, the Middle East and Africa (AMEA), IHG

Last year, 2014, was a year of exciting new developments for IHG in the Asia, Middle East and Africa region (AMEA).

For 2015,our strategy for growth remains consistent: partnering with the best owners and investors throughout AMEA and making sure that we develop the right brands that resonate in the right markets.

This is underpinned by enhancing our guests’ experiences, with loyalty and Food and Beverage (F&B) being key opportunities for us.

In Australia, we have several owner relationships that are integral to supporting our growth strategy. Our multiple development agreement with Pro Invest Group, which is developing 15 Holiday Inn Express hotels in Australia under a AUD$150-million fund, is a great example.

Franchising is a big focus for us, especially in the Australasian market. I’ve moved to Sydney from Singapore for that very reason: to build our hugely-successful global franchise model locally. We currently have more than 50 franchised properties throughout AMEA and Australia is a prime market for us to develop existing and new partnerships with owners and investors interested in this investment model.

With that focus, our midscale brands – Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express – are integral to our franchise growth. Holiday Inn Express, our select service brand, is set to make its debut in Australia in 2015 and the first hotels are due to open in Macquarie Park, Sydney and then Spring Hill, Brisbane. These two brands are especially appealing to franchisees due to their lower cost business models.

Holiday Inn Express Brisbane Spring Hill 2 - EDITED

Growing at a good pace will always be our ultimate aim but it will always be sustained, quality growth – opening the right brands where we truly believe the demand is, or will be. We recently opened InterContinental Sydney Double Bay, the only luxury hotel outside Sydney’s CBD and an area which we know is going to come into its full potential over the next few years.

Likewise, we see that the demand in the upscale boutique sector is growing too. We have just opened our first Hotel Indigo property in the region, our boutique lifestyle brand, in Bangkok – with seven more Hotel Indigo properties in our pipeline in key cities across AMEA, including Bali, Singapore and Riyadh.

In Australia and New Zealand specifically, we have identified exciting opportunities in key cities, including the recent Crowne Plaza Christchurch signing in New Zealand, as well as the InterContinental Perth signing in November of last year. There are a range of other exciting development opportunities in the pipeline for this year, with a focus on cities such as Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin.

This growth in hotels is all underpinned by a focus on our loyalty club – we need to ensure that we continue to retain and reward our most valued guests, IHG Rewards Club members. We’re making sure that we enhance our members’ holistic experience (both when they in one of our hotels and when they are not) and encouraging more direct bookings.

One way we are able to do that is by providing our members with numerous ways to redeem points so our members can use them whichever way suits them and their lifestyle best. Recently we launched a new IHG Rewards Club Global Redemption Catalogue; an enhanced online catalogue offering thousands of retail redemption choices tailored to over 200 countries and 20 languages.

Stillery-gin-bar-InterContinental-Sydney-Double-Bay

F&B is growing as a revenue source and in focus for guests. F&B contributed to more than 40% of our total gross revenue in AMEA and Greater China in 2013, and we are currently rolling out the following programmes to enhance our dining experiences on offer:
-IHG Dining Rewards awards members with generous dining and accommodation benefits and an instant status upgrade in our loyalty programme, IHG Rewards Club;
-The IHG Culinary Panel features five celebrated chefs who have been appointed as IHG Culinary Ambassadors to develop a range of unique signature dishes for guests dining in IHG’s hotels and resorts across AMEA;
-Partnership with Treasury Wine Estates to offer a premium selection of wine from award-winning Australian marque Penfolds at more than 68 InterContinental hotels and resorts across AMEA;
-The InterContinental Planet Trekkers Children’s Menu has been created exclusively for children across InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, offering exciting and nutritionally-balanced meals for kids; and
-Partnership with Nutrition Australia to develop healthy and nutritious kid’s menus across all Holiday Inn properties in AMEA.

We have great confidence that 2015 will continue to be a successful year of growth for IHG in both established markets and emerging ones. For us to be successful, we know that we need to continue to focus on growing our well-loved brands with the right partners, in the best locations. And by building that strong brand portfolio and enhancing the guest experience in specific areas, we have complete confidence that we will be able to offer an unparalleled choice for guests and owners.

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