China's Jin Jiang International, is looking to buy hotels in major European cities, including Paris, to expand its luxury portfolio, the chief executive of its Louvre Hotels Pierre-Frederic Roulot told Reuters on Tuesday.
Roulot, who oversees state-owned Jin Jiang's expansion in Europe, said the close ties with China enjoyed by Louvre Hotels had helped it to weather an overall decline in Chinese visitors to France in 2016 due to security fears.
Jin Jiang's strength as a powerful tour operator is also helping when foreign tourists, notably from China, have avoided France after a wave of militant Islamist attacks and repeated robberies against Asian tourists, Roulot said.
"There were 2.2 million Chinese visitors in France in 2015, this could fall to 1.8 million this year but we are seeing a rise of between 8% and 10% in nightly Chinese stay...We are less impacted than others," he said.
China has been the world's largest outbound tourism market since 2012, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), with spending on travel abroad growing double-digits in the first nine months of 2016.
Louver Hotels, which is the number two for budget hotels in Europe after France's AccorHotels, will also use its alliance with China's biggest bank card provider UnionPay to reach more of the growing number of Chinese travelers abroad.
Its hotels in France will now accept China UnionPay credit cards, further boosting its profile and responding to concerns many Chinese tourists have about not carrying too much cash in French streets due to safety fears.
Jin Jiang, one of China's biggest hotel groups, bought Louvre Hotels in March 2015 for 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion) as an "expansion platform" outside China, Roulot said, although he declined to comment on its push to increase its 12.6% stake in France's AccorHotels.
Jin Jiang is among a growing number of Chinese firms investing in European tourism, including Fosun which controls French holiday group Club Med and gave Louvre Hotels a 2.5 billion euro three-year credit line to speed up expansion.
With a 2016 turnover of 1.6 billion euros, seen reaching 1.7 billion euros by 2017, Louvre Hotels operates 1,200 hotels, including 850 in France, ranging from one to five stars - Première Classe, Campanile, Kyriad, Tulip Inn, Golden Tulip, Royal Tulip, in 51 countries.
Louver Hotels, which inaugurated its first Campanile hotel in Shanghai in October, plans to open 250 hotels by 2020 in China with the help of Jin Jiang.