Mandarin Oriental has become the first luxury hotel chain to enable guests to book rooms via Chinese instant messaging platform WeChat. Rose Dykins reports

Mandarin Oriental has become the latest hotel brand to connect with guests via WeChat – and the first to enable room reservations and payments via the app.

WeChat is the leading instant messaging app in China, with 1.2 billion active users. Also known as Weixin – meaning “micro-message” in Mandarin – it was launched in 2011 by Chinese tech giant, Tencent Holdings.

WeChat offers a similar user experience to WhatsApp – which Tencent Holdings almost bought (it was later purchased by Facebook in 2014). As well as messaging and sending videos and images, it also lets users make digital purchases, order taxis and play online games.

China has the world’s largest market of outbound travellers, and hotel brands are adapting their offering to better serve the nation’s customers.

By connecting with Mandarin Oriental’s WeChat account, users will be able to book and pay for the brand’s hotel rooms all over the world via their WeChat Pay account.

Accessed via the unique WeChat ID of “mo-hotels”, this gateway ensures direct connectivity for WeChat users with every Mandarin Oriental destination in the world.

Mandarin Oriental Geneva“The digital and social media revolution in China has transformed consumer behaviour,” says Jill Kluge, chief marketing officer for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

“We are delighted to be the first luxury hotel group to enable this combined booking and payment functionality on China’s preferred social media and e-commerce platform, enhancing our digital service delivery for guests.”

It will be also be possible to virtually explore and message each Mandarin Oriental hotel via WeChat, and to call each property’s restaurant via the app to make dinner reservations.

Other hotel companies that connect with guests via WeChat include Marriott, which allows guests to request butler service via the app at St Regis Hong Kong. It has also introduced room service via WeChat at W Shanghai the Bund.

At Intercontinental Shanghai, travellers can user WeChat to check in or out, order room service and summon butlers.

Mélia Bali partnered with WeChat Pay to enable guests to make payments via the app across the hotel’s facilities, including its spa, restaurants and reception.

Meanwhile, Hilton’s new artificially intelligent customer service bot engages with guests in China via a WeChat Mini Program. A cartoon avatar named Xiao Xi, the bot gives updated travel advice and support, including  hotel information, weather forecasts and updates on promotional deals.

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