Guests travel the world just to stay at Hard Rock hotels: Sandy Yang

by | 08 Mar 2020 | People

Sandy Yang was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Shanghai 2019. Photo by Rahul Venkit.

Brand power isn’t something Hard Rock Hotels worry about; it’s how to strike the right balance between their international reputation and local influences, says Sandy Yang, Regional Director of Marketing Asia Pacific, Hard Rock International China.

Hard Rock. Just the brand name evokes imagery of rock’n’roll, music and entertainment — for good reason.

Hard Rock Cafe Inc. is a chain of theme restaurants founded in 1971 by Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton in London. In 1979, the cafe began covering its walls with rock and roll memorabilia, a tradition which expanded to others in the chain.

Hard Rock Hotels are rooted in the spirit of music that all began with a guitar being donated by rock legend Eric Clapton to London’s original Hard Rock Cafe.

Today, there are 31 Hard Rock hotels around the globe, with more in the pipeline.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Shanghai 2019, Sandy Yang, Regional Director of Marketing Asia Pacific, Hard Rock International China, spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS about their plans to bring a different style of hospitality to the region.

On the upcoming Hard Rock Hotel Dalian — the crown jewel

Sandy: Our very exciting project in Dalian will open soon. I would say it’s our crown jewel, but our other hotels would be jealous. Everyone wants to be the crown jewel, but I really think the Hard Rock Hotel Dalian is special as it’s by the Golden Pebble Beach and is a leisure destination mostly targeted at domestic markets.

What we’re hoping to bring as the Hard Rock brand is a different style of hospitality for the region. Currently, there’s a Hilton hotel there already up and running, very successfully. But for the Hard Rock brand, we’re hoping to bring the leisure, the fun, the music-inspired stay experience in that market.

How Chinese will Hard Rock Hotels need to be in your market?

Sandy: The best part about working for Hard Rock is that we’re not a cookie-cutter brand. Every one of our hotels is very different based on the location, the music curation, the music memorabilia that we showcase. We want to create music-inspired stay experiences.

It’s an interesting balance we need to look for because we are an international brand and when people enter, they want a certain international connection while still having a sense of destination. We have a balance between local artists and international artists and the best part about music nowadays is that it’s universal. We have to be sure that we’re incorporating the local culture and we have a great team of right management that’s responsible for creating this experience.

Key projects and destinations for Hard Rock Hotels

Sandy: Asia and China are definitely our key destinations to develop. In fact, we’re also opening in Hainan in late 2020 or early 2021. In Asia, we have eight operating hotels. We just recently opened Hard Rock Hotel Maldives, which is an exciting project.

In Malaysia, we recently opened Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast. It was a very famous destination about 20 years ago, popular with Malaysian and Singaporean residents who would go there with their family for holiday. At the end of September 2019, we had a grand opening party, invited Malaysian rock legend Amy Search, who performed a concert for us. Instead of ribbon cutting, we did guitar smashing. That’s how we roll.

What’s your key message to hotel investors and owners?

Sandy: Well, the key message is: we’re very different. For example, when we did the grand opening party at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, there was a group of guests traveling from Switzerland specifically for this party because it’s a Hard Rock Hotel and they could procure the grand opening merchandise that’s only limited to this hotel at this time. This is the brand power we have.

Forget about loyalty points. We actually have customers willing to spend traveling halfway across the globe just to stay at our hotels and to buy our products. That’s very powerful. The brand has developed in a very organic way where we grow our reputation by interpersonal communication and word of mouth. It’s the power that I don’t see with a lot of other hotel brands.

That’s the thing about Hard Rock that’s drawing all of our guests and even our team members to join — because we’re a very unique brand. People choose to work or to stay at Hard Rock instead of just picking a destination randomly and staying at whichever hotel they can. Our guests would actually plan their trips based on: “Where is the next Hard Rock hotel I could go?”

It’s the brand power; the idea of this unique experience that is driving people to travel miles and miles to stay at a Hard Rock hotel.


Sandy: It is so well-executed. It’s a very good balance between operators, suppliers, designers, and investors. I think it’s a good representation of different brands. It’s my first TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR and I’d be happy to come back again.

To attend, address or sponsor TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events where you can connect with key professionals from the global hotel industry, please get in touch with TOPHOTELPROJECTS’ Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

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With a massive global presence, Hard Rock International is one of the world's most globally recognised brands. Hard Rock is also known for its collectible fashion and music-related merchandise, memorable dining experiences, Hard Rock Live performance venues and more.



The TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR is a series of one-day conferences around the world for hospitality leaders.