The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) will launch twelve new upscale hotels under a new brand for the Chinese market in 2012.
An IHG representative confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that, while a name has not yet been selected, the hotel group has already agreed twelve new sites in the first wave, covering Beijing, Shanghai, other Chinese provincial capitals and economic centres.
The move has "a particular focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities which represent a rapidly growing share of the China hotel market," IHG's representative explained.
Tier 2 cities rank below the "big four" of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, with cities like Wuhan, Chengdu, Tianjin and Dalian as examples.
Tier 3 cities are a rung below that on the ladder, consisting of less-developed regional provincial capitals like Lanzhou, Guiyang and Xuzhou.
In addition to the domestic Chinese developments, further international expansion is already planned.
"It makes a lot of sense to go to [places like] Singapore and Hong Kong and even further afield," IHG chief executive for Asia, Middle East and Africa Jan Smits noted in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires.
The new brand will be aimed at Chinese travellers within China: "We have spent quite a long time trying to understand what the domestic Chinese traveller wanted. There's obviously a lot of interest in a domestically-grown brand that has got the benefit of a large international system behind it," Smits said.
IHG's business travel hotel brands already include the luxury InterContinental, meetings-focussed Crowne Plaza, mid-market Holiday Inn and boutique-end Hotel Indigo, as well as various other chains towards the tourist end of the market.
Between the group's brands, there are around 160 InterContinental group hotels already in China. An IHG statement says it "is the first international hotel group to take the pioneering action of designing a hotel brand especially for the China market, which is a significant part of its global strategy."