COVID-19 HAS, received wisdom has it, been terrible for hotels. The share prices of the eight biggest listed Western groups by room count have slipped by 14%, on average, this year. The glum consensus is, though, being challenged by two big Chinese chains. Both are enjoying resurgent demand for domestic travel as China has tamed its epidemic. And strength at home is fuelling ambitions abroad.
Jin Jiang, the world’s second-biggest hotel firm by capacity, boasted an occupancy rate of 74% in the third quarter, in line with last year and more than double that of its bigger rival, Marriott International. Its market value has soared by three-quarters this year, to $6.4bn, above better-known Asian brands such as Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental. Huazhu, which like Jin Jiang is based in Shanghai, saw revenue per available room recover by 40% from the second quarter, to 179 yuan ($27). The group is now worth $16bn, behind only Marriott and Hilton Worldwide among the world’s listed hoteliers.
Similarly to their big Western rivals, Jin Jiang and Huazhu each owns a portfolio of brands that cater to different customers. Jin Jiang, which is controlled by Shanghai’s local government, operates everything from budget digs (think Marriott’s Fairfield Inn) to the upper end of the mass market (like Sheraton). Huazhu is a…