Dalian Wanda Group is saying goodbye to its partnerships with foreign hotel operators as the Chinese conglomerate continues its quest to build the first globally recognised Chinese premium hotel brand.
While the company has been forced to abandon its attempts at building its own hotels overseas in recent months, Wanda now plans to put its own Reign, Realm and Vista brands on many of its domestic hotels, and take over operation of the properties, according to a report.
Wanda in January relaunched the Sofitel Wanda Beijing, as the Wanda Vista Beijing after having previously having the hotel managed by French hospitality group Accor. As further foreign partnerships expire, the conglomerate chaired by billionaire tycoon Wang Jianlin is looking to rebrand about 10 existing luxury hotels in total, applying the Wanda moniker and taking over operation of the properties, according to a Nikkei Asian Review account.
Out With Hyatt, Sofitel and Hilton, In With Reign, Realm and Vista
Wanda, which currently owns hotels managed by IHG, Hyatt, and Hilton, in addition to Accor, is allowing existing contracts with foreign partners to expire, according to the Nikkei report, and will opt to self-manage any new hotels it develops under its own operating company.
The plan comes as the developer-turned-entertainment conglomerate shifts its focus to property management after selling a portfolio of 73 hotels to Guangzhou R&F Properties last July. In total, Wanda currently owns 50 hotels under foreign brands including marques from the Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG groups, with 21 among the portfolio being sold to Guangzhou R&F.
Wanda to Become Premium Hotel Brand Leader
As of now, Wanda has not yet declared a specific deadline for ending its relationships with international hotel operators, nor has it specified which hotels may be rebranded in the years to come.
The future owner of many of Wanda’s existing assets, Guangzhou R&F, has also not yet commented on its own branding plans. In July last year, the Guangzhou-based developer announced it was acquiring 77 hotels from Wanda for RMB 19.9 billion ($2.9 billion). The acquisition was later adjusted to include 73 hotels for RMB 18.95 billion ($3 billion), the latest filing on the deal to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange shows.
When Wanda reopened its Sofitel Wanda Beijing as Wanda Vista Beijing in January, the group described the move in a statement as a “clear evidence of Wanda’s commitment to creating a self-owned premium hotel brand in China and to being a world-leading hotel management group.”
Having launched its first hotel in the northeastern city of Dalian in 1996, Wanda initially focused on hotel ownership, partnering with high-end foreign hotel chains. Wanda undertook the investment and construction of the hotels, with the international hotel management brands operating and managing the properties while holding the hotels’ naming rights.
After establishing its hotel arm Wanda Hotel and Resorts Co, Ltd in 2012, Wanda gradually shifted its strategy towards managing its own properties and developing its own brands. The Dalian-based group now operates and manages over 60 hotels across the country under its brands Wanda Vista, Wanda Reign, Wanda Realm and Wanda Jin.
Debt-Ridden Group Letting Go Overseas Assets
The hotel management move comes as the conglomerate attempts to operate more of its hotels to generate profits in order to climb out of its debt hole. The group’s Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, with $2 billion in overseas debt, is disposing of its foreign assets to raise cash.
In January Wanda sold a pair of projects in Sydney and on Australia’s Gold Coast that it had once valued at $1.5 billion for an undisclosed sum. The Aussie disposal came just one week after the Chinese developer had sold the site for its $1.1 billion One Nine Elms project in London for $82 million, reportedly to Guangzhou R&F Properties.