The Banyan Tree: Branding the Intangible

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The Banyan Tree: branding the intangible
Jochen Wirtz

Jochen Wirtz is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of the UCLA – NUS Executive MBA Program at the National University of Singapore, Singapore.

Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts had become a leading player in the luxury resort and spa market in Asia. As part of its growth strategy, Banyan Tree had launched new brands and brand extensions that included resorts, spas, residences, destination club memberships, retail outlets, and even museum shops. Now, the company was preparing to aggressively grow its global footprint in the Americas, Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East while preserving its distinctive Asian identity and strong brand image of Banyan Tree.

A brand synonymous with private villas, tropical garden spas, and retail galleries promoting traditional craft, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts (BTHR) received its first guest in 1994 in Phuket, Thailand. Since then, it had grown into a leading manager and developer of niche and premium resorts, hotels and spas in Asia Pacific. Despite having minimal advertising, Banyan Tree achieved global exposure and a high level of brand awareness through the company’s public relations and global marketing programs. Much interest was also generated by the company’s socially responsible business values and practices caring for the social and natural environments. With a firm foothold in the medium-sized luxury resorts market, the company introduced a new and contemporary brand Angsana in 2000 to gain a wider customer base. As the resorts market became increasingly crowded with similar competitive offerings, lured by the success of Banyan Tree, the company had to contemplate about expanding its business and preserving its distinct identity. Banyan Tree and Angsana resorts were expanding geographically outside of Asia and also into the urban hotel market in major cities throughout the world. With around 34 hotels and resorts scheduled to open over the next three years, Banyan Tree faced the challenge of translating and maintaining the success of a niche Asian hospitality brand into various market segments on a global scale.

Company background
By end of 2008, BTHRs managed and/or had ownership interests in 25 resorts and hotels, 68 spas, 65 retail galleries, and two golf courses in 55 locations in 23 countries. Since its establishment in 1994, the company’s flagship brand, Banyan Tree, had won some 400 international tourism, hospitality, design, and marketing awards, some of which included the ‘‘Best Resort Hotel in Asia-Pacific’’ (Phuket) for four consecutive years from Business Traveller Awards since 2002, ‘‘Seychelles’ Best Resort’’ and ‘‘Seychelles’ Best Spa’’ from World Travel Awards (2003), ‘‘Best Hotels for Rooms’’ (Bangkok) from UK Conde Nast Traveller (2006), ‘‘Best Hotel (Luxury)’’ (Lijiang) from Hospitality Design Awards (2007), and ‘‘PATA Gold Award – Ecotourism Project Category’’ (Bintan) from Pacific Asia Travel Association Gold Awards (2008)[1]. BTHR was founded by Ho Kwon Ping, a travel enthusiast and former journalist, and his wife Claire Chang, a strong advocate of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Prior to entering the hotels and resorts business, Ho spent some 15 years managing the family business, which was into everything imaginable, such as commodities, food products, consumer

The support and feedback of the management of Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts in the writing of this case is gratefully acknowledged. Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The author/s may have disguised names; financial and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.

DOI 10.1108/20450621111110474

VOL. 1 NO. 1 2011, pp. 1-12, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2045-0621

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EMERALD EMERGING MARKETS CASE STUDIES

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