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奢侈经济开始复苏,区域表现参差不齐

Duff McDonald 2011年06月14日

虽然丽思卡尔顿酒店的业务在美国局部地区依然疲软,但在世界的某些角落,特别是中国,却呈现出强劲的增长。甚至在巴林,该酒店的业务也已开始复苏。

位于卡塔尔的丽思卡尔顿酒店

    奢侈酒店业正在复苏?尽管在美国可能并非完全如此,但上周四,丽思卡尔顿酒店集团(Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company)宣布了一揽子计划:到2016年,在其现有的75家酒店的基础上,再增加36家,地点遍及从波多黎各到越南的广大地区。

    2011年,该公司不仅营业收入、入住率、平均房价均呈上升之势;而且,它亦重拾顾客们已经习以为常的一贯作风,比如在香港开设世界“最高的”酒店:该酒店占据了香港环球贸易广场的第102~118层。

    《财富》(Fortune)就中国、阿拉伯之春、以及所谓的“美国国际集团(AIG)效应”等话题,对该公司总裁兼首席运营官贺夫•哈姆勒进行了采访。

    当下全球经济一片低迷,奢侈品牌的处境如何?

    与几年前相比,我们现在的处境肯定有所改善。在经历了漫长的发展速度放缓之后,业务终于开始复苏。2008年和2009年是奢侈酒店行业的低谷,我们的收入损失了24%。但是,2010年业务复苏的速度超出了我们的预期:预计增长率只有1%,但实际却增长了11%;尽管如此,营业收入仍然比2007年低16%。而今年已在去年的基础上又增长了12%。我们希望,营业收入到年底可以追平2007年。但是,预计第四季度可能会出现增长趋缓。因此,我有点儿担心,我们的这个愿望有可能会落空。

    在泡沫破灭之后,贵公司的集团业务一落千丈。现在,这块业务是否也已开始复苏?

    丽思卡尔顿几乎只有一类集团客户,那就是金融机构。你也许还记得吧?当初美国国际集团挪用不良资产救助计划资金,在奢侈酒店召开会议,因此备受指责。自那之后,这类会议几乎一夜间就销声匿迹了。这就是我所说的美国国际集团效应。但是,现在金融会议已卷土重来,这是我们最重要的客户。2010年,这块业务完全复苏,集团客户业务一片繁荣。2010年,在丽思卡尔顿,集团会议入住天数合计18万个夜晚,完全超出了我们的预期。今年,集团会议业务又增长了10%。因此,可以说金融会议业务已经全面复苏。这是个好兆头。

    丽思卡尔顿在中东设有多家分号。阿拉伯之春对贵公司的业务有何影响?

    无论在埃及还是在巴林,我们的业务均出现了下降。但是,阿拉伯联合酋长国的业务却始终蒸蒸日上。无论经济形势如何,人们照旧需要开会、出差,只是他们把开会的地点从巴林挪到了阿拉伯联合酋长国或者卡塔尔。我们在这两个国家分别拥有两家酒店。在巴林,我们酒店的入住率一度在一夜之间由80%下降到了20%。现在,那儿的业务也已经开始复苏。

    那沙特阿拉伯的情况如何?你们计划在那儿建个酒店,有这回事吧?

    不错,我们在利雅得的酒店定于今年9月开张。对我们来说,利雅得酒店非常重要,因为我们之前在那儿还没有开展业务。利雅得酒店是家豪华酒店,共有450间客房,建造该酒店使用的大理石数量超过了其他所有丽思卡尔顿酒店所用大理石的总和。

    7月份,我们还会接管阿曼的传奇酒店——阿巴士单(Al Bustan)。该酒店于48年前建成营业,曾是中东地区第一家大酒店,声誉卓著。阿曼斥2.2亿美元巨资,对酒店进行了翻新。随后,阿曼财政部长就致电我们,表示他们希望丽思卡尔顿接管这家酒店。对此,我们都兴奋不已。

    你们在整个欧洲只开设了9家酒店,其中有些由于执照问题还无法使用丽思卡尔顿品牌。然而,仅仅在中国一个国家,你们拥有的酒店就将达到9家。亚洲如今是否已成为奢侈业最活跃的地区?

    我们在欧洲有9家酒店。目前,在中国有7家酒店:在北京和上海分别有2家,在深圳和广州各有1家,在三亚还开有一家度假酒店。我们将在成都和青岛绿城再分别开设一家酒店。尽管中国人认为深圳和广州是二线城市,但这两座城市的人口都达到了800万~1,000万。广州200公里左右的狭长地带上几乎分布着全球四分之一的制造业。

    在三亚的亚龙湾,我们经营着中国最昂贵的度假酒店。这家度假村的入住率约为80%,其中90%的客人是中国人,他们支付的房价都在400美元/天以上。我想告诉你的是:他们酷爱美食,酷爱饮酒,而且他们也精于品酒之道。

    我们在香港的业务更是堪称完美。酒店的入住率达到了100%,未来两个月的食物和饮料也都销售一空。而且,我们的酒店预定服务只面向会员。亚洲在腾飞。

    在经济低迷时期,身为万豪国际酒店集团(Marriott)的一员是否有助于贵公司渡过难关?

    这点毫无疑问。万豪集团在全球各地拥有4,000家酒店。他们会根据我们的需要提供各类额外资源。其中最为显而易见的是:万豪为我们提供了预定系统等高科技,而这些单凭我们自己根本无力负担。此外,他们亦帮助我们实现业务拓展。万豪的分支机构遍布全球,我们的员工在其中一些分支机构中销售丽思卡尔顿品牌。同时,万豪在奖励计划方面也为我们提供了帮助。

    那么,你为何还会夜不能寐呢?

    那是因为担心我们在美国的业务。眼下,美国的经济依然没有明显的起色,失业率居高不下就是头号难题。话虽如此,我们在加里福尼亚的业务依然坚挺。今年的头4个月,弗罗里达干得也很出色。而且,在弗罗里达,由于夏季漫长,因此在年初的头4个月就得做好全年的预算。美国业务的薄弱环节是从波士顿直到亚特兰大的东北走廊地带,我只能说,那里的业务增长慢于预期。

    译者:大海

    Is luxury back? It may not feel quite that way in the United States, but on Thursday, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced plans to add 36 hotels to its current roster of 75 by 2016, in locations stretching from Puerto Rico to Vietnam.

    Revenues, occupancy, and average daily rates are up in 2011, and the company is back to doing things in the style its customers are accustomed to, such as opening the world's "highest" hotel in Hong Kong -- it occupies floors 102 to 118 of the island's International Commerce Center.

    Fortune caught up with president and COO Herve Humler to talk about China, the Arab Spring, and what he calls the "AIG effect."

    What does it feel like to be a luxury brand at this point in the global economic cycle?

    It certainly feels better than it did a few years ago. We're coming back from a long slowdown. The two years of 2008 and 2009 were the worst for the industry. We lost 24% of our top line. But in 2010, we saw a recovery we didn't forecast. We estimated 1% growth, but ended up with 11%. We're still down 16% from 2007, but this year, I am up an additional 12%. We're hoping by the end of the year to close the gap. But when we look at the 4th quarter, we're seeing a bit of a slowdown. So I'm a little worried about getting that done.

    Your group business fell off sharply after the bubble burst. Is it back?

    At Ritz-Carlton, we pretty much have one group account, and that's financial institutions. Remember when AIG (AIG) was criticized for using TARP money to hold conferences at luxury hotels? After that, it pretty much all disappeared, so I call it the AIG effect. But it's back again. It's our number one account. We recouped everything in 2010. Group is strong. I did 180,000 group nights in 2010, which is more than I was budgeting. We're up an additional 10% this year. So finance is back 100%. That's one good sign.

    You have a large presence in the Middle East. How has the Arab Spring affected your business?

    We definitely saw business fall off in both Egypt and Bahrain. But the UAE has done quite well. People still have conferences and people are still traveling, so instead of going to Bahrain, they went to the UAE or Qatar. We have two hotels in the Emirates and two in Qatar. In Bahrain, though, we went from 80% occupancy to 20% occupancy overnight. It's coming back, though.

    What about Saudi Arabia? You're about to open a hotel there, right?

    We are, with a hotel in Riyadh opening in September. Riyadh is an important hotel for us. We have no presence there. It's a gorgeous hotel, with 450 rooms. There is more marble in that hotel than the rest of the Ritz-Carlton combined.

    We're also taking over management of the legendary Al Bustan in Oman in July. That was the first grand hotel in the Middle East, opened 48 years ago. It's a great name. They did a $220 million renovation, and then the Minister of Finance called us and said they wanted us to take over the hotel. So we're excited about that.

    You only have nine hotels in Europe, some of which don't even carry the Ritz-Carlton brand due to licensing issues. And yet you're about to have nine hotels in China alone. Is Asia where all the action is in luxury these days?

    We have nine hotels in Europe. We have seven hotels in China – two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, Shenzen, Guangzhou, and our resort in Sanya. And we're going to open two more, in Chengdu and Qingdao Green Town. They call Shenzen and Guangzhou secondary cities, but they still have eight to ten million people living in them. In a 200-kilometer stretch, Guangzhou accounts for something like a quarter of all the manufacturing the world.

    We run the most expensive resort in China, in Sanya, on Yalong Bay. We have about 80% occupancy at the resort, and 90% of our customers are Chinese, none of which pays less than a $400 daily rate. And let me tell you this: They love to eat. They love to drink. And they know how to drink good wine too.

    Hong Kong is also doing spectacularly. The hotel is sold out. Food and beverage is sold out for next 60 days. You can't make a reservation if you're not a hotel guest. Asia is booming.

    Has being owned by Marriott (MAR) been helpful in these tougher times?

    Absolutely. Marriott provided us with additional resources when we needed them. This is a company with 4000 hotels around the world. Start with the obvious: they give us technology—like reservations systems—that we could never otherwise afford. They also help us with development. They have offices all over the world, and we have people in some of those offices selling Ritz-Carlton. And they helped us with our rewards program as well.

    So what keeps you up at night?

    Our U.S. business. There isn't much positive out there right now, starting with the unemployment numbers. That said, California is pretty strong right now. Florida also did well in the first four months of the year—and you have to make your budget in the first four months of the year in Florida, because you're always going to have a long summer. The weakest part is the northeast corridor, from Boston all the way down to Atlanta. All I can say there is that we're behind where we'd like to be.

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