China Orders Jin Jiang to Rebrand Vienna Hotels in Purge of Foreign Names

Main Photo: The Vienna Hotel Shenzhen

Date: June 2019

Location: China and Global

Name: Vienna International, majority owned by Jin Jiang

Who/What: Government officials in the Chinese tourist hotspot of Hainan have told popular hotel chain Vienna International to change the name of its branches because their reference to the European city reflects a “worship of foreign things”, sparking a stand-off with China’s largest hotel group.

The civil affairs bureau in the island province — sometimes referred to as China’s Hawaii because of its beaches — has issued a list of dozens of businesses with names that should be “rectified” because they suggested “worship of foreign things”.

Among them were establishments named Victoria Hotel, Heidelberg Hotel and 15 branches of the mid-range chain Vienna International Hotels. The Vienna brand’s hundreds of outlets in China are majority owned by Jin Jiang Group, China’s largest hotel operator, which operates more than 10,000 hotels worldwide and owns a majority stake in US group Radisson Hospitality.

In 2015 when Jin Jiang acquired 80% of Vienna Hotels Group, which is based in Shenzhen, China, it gave them an additional 479 hotels with 60,000 rooms to add to their portfolio.

Vienna Hotel Group was established in 1993 and its portfolio comprised three- to five-star business hotels in more than 100 cities across China under six brands, including the Vienna Hotel, Venus Royal Hotel and Vienna Apartment Hotel.

Vienna’s Wudaoxiang restaurant chain was also be included in the acquisition deal. Wudaoxiang has more than 40 restaurants under four brands with over 2,000 employees. It enjoys extremely profitable operations and a strong presence in southern China.

“The country is now culturally confident. China has thousands of years of culture. Is it appropriate to use these foreign names on Chinese territory? Isn’t this hurting the feelings of the nation?” a civil affairs official told a state-run Hainan newspaper.

State-owned Jin Jiang responded in a social media post this week saying that it had lodged a formal objection with Hainan’s civil affairs bureau. The company said it had registered Vienna Hotels as a trademark until 2022 and had a right to use the name. It declined to comment further.

The Hainan government also ordered changes to business with “feudal” names such as “Coral Palace” and “Imperial Garden District”, ostensibly because they refer to China’s imperial past, as well as names they judged to be “incomprehensible” or “strange”.

The Hainan government official, who the state-run newspaper quoted but did not name, said the province’s effort were part of a national campaign.

The dispute comes as companies from the US and Canada have complained of punitive measures in China due to the trade war and diplomatic dispute over Chinese company Huawei, which have soured Beijing’s relations between the two countries.

Chinese property and hotel projects are often named after foreign cities or regions. A 2017 survey of projects in 137 Chinese cities found that Paris, Venice, Versailles, California, Rome, Champs-Elysées and Victoria were among the most common names used.

Local governments have periodically clamped down on the practice over the years. In 2017 officials in a district of the city of Xi’an in central China criticised the names of several buildings for being too foreign. They included a residential complex named after France’s Seine river and California City Plaza, a shopping mall. It was not clear if their names were later changed.

THPT Comment: Oh dear, when central government, of any country, starts interfering with such matters, it will only end in tears! Jian Jiang should win though.

First Seen: London’s Financial Times – FT

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