Chinese hotel group Plateno is helping European hotels access Chinese outbound travellers through its Plateno Connect platform.
Plateno Group operates more than 3,000 hotels in China with 7 Days Inn its biggest brand. It also manages some foreign brands and was ranked as seventh-largest hotel group worldwide in 2015.
As part of its franchise/management model it has developed a range of tech and IT products under the Plateno Connect brand, and it is this brand which is being adapted to allow third-party hotels access to the Chinese market.
Tomasz Janczak, e-commerce and distribution director for Plateno Group Europe, said that Plateno was looking to "build a link" between Europe and China. An important part of this link is taking advantage of its Plateno Club loyalty scheme.
"We have 80 million members which makes us the biggest hotel loyalty scheme in the world. Our members' combined buying power is great and they are travelling abroad more often, so we're looking at the best ways to promote third-party hotels in Europe to our members in China."
As an aside, he pointed out that "85% to 87% of our bookings come direct, a level almost all hotels would dream about, and it is all down to the strength of our loyalty scheme. We've seen the recent moves by hotel chains to offer incentives to members, presenting this as a new concept but we've been doing it for ten years - discounts, free nights, upgrades."
As well as the world's biggest loyalty scheme, Plateno Connect also runs Plateno Trip, an app-based accommodation-only site which currently sells Plateno brands but which is in line to be opened up to third parties.
"It's similar to what Accor is doing, selling third-party hotels alongside its own," he said.
Hotels can access this via an extranet, while channel managers can also access the site on behalf of their hotel clients.
As well as opening up Club and Trip, Plateno can also distribute inventory through China's OTAs, such as Ctrip.
Plateno Connect will also work with hotels on building a stand-alone presence in the Chinese online travel space, offering tech and strategic support.
"One of the biggest problem for any hotel wanting to sell to the Chinese traveller is brand building," he said, "and how to get your hotel visible in the market. Baidu is different from Google, social media management needs different skills, payment options are unfamiliar, websites need to built in a way that gets through the firewalls."
Janczak also noted that China outbound was not homogeneous and that a detailed knowledge of the market is needed to understand the differences between age groups, regions and patterns around specific international destinations.
"Some business out there are taking advantage of China's potential and persuading hotels to spend tens of thousands of euros on a web site that will never get seen," he claimed. "We've seen first-hand the market develop over the years and travellers are becoming more diverse, so hotels need to think omni-channel. Having a single approach would be trying to sell to Germany and Brazil using the same TV advert."