China and the Hotels of Tomorrow
by Sylvie Greil
decision to adopt a capitalist take on communism has turned
it into the world’s fourth-largest business travel
market, and the hotel industry knows it. Mega-hotels for
folks with suits and expense accounts have become ubiquitous
in the dense silhouettes of Chinese metropolises, but
now we’ll get treated to the kinds of sprawling
luxury resorts that offer a chance to get away from the
crowds. Since 2005, Banyan Tree has been running the magical
Banyan Tree Ringha in China's Yunnan province. It’s
an awe-inspiring natural setting that will make you forget
the Dow Jones ever existed. In fact, as decreed by the
Chinese government, it's the official Shangri-La.
most recent group to eye China is Best Western International,
with twelve new properties in the works and plans for
60 hotels offering 10,000 rooms by 2009. This will make
the group the fastest-growing hotel chain in China. They
announced this fall that these new hotels will not be
no-nonsense roadside options for travelers on a budget,
but four- and five-star properties in Beijing, Shanghai,
the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas and elsewhere. Best
Western currently has seventeen hotels in China.
we’ve hinted at, China isn’t just all work
and no play. Also expanding behind its red (increasingly
pink) curtain is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company with The
Ritz-Carlton, Sanya on the attractive South China Sea—its
first resort to launch in 2008. It will feature a luxurious
30,000-square-foot spa, 451 rooms, suites and private
villas, the signature Ritz Kids Club, three restaurants,
tennis courts, swimming pools, a fitness center and, of
course, conference facilities. The leisure traveler will
also find Ritz-Carlton hotels in Beijing-Financial Street
(2006), Beijing-China Central Place (2007), Guangzhou
(2007), Shenzhen (2008) and Hong Kong-Kowloon (2009).
Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
Seasons, which has been running the Four Seasons Hotel
Shanghai since 2002 and Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong since
2005, will open the Four Seasons Hotel Beijing in time
for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The 300 rooms are minutes
from a number of international corporate offices, major
exhibition centers and very close to the Forbidden City
and Tian An Men Square. (Four Seasons is also expanding
in the world’s other fast-growing sector, India,
with the 2007 opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai,
which will offer ayurvedic spa services and views of the
Hilton, which now has five hotels in China, including
ones in Shanghai and Beijing, will open the upscale, 358-room
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Tianjin in 2008.
InterContinental is already ahead of the gang with four
recent newcomers: Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhou, Crowne Plaza
Fudan Shanghai and the more leisure-focused Crowne Plaza
Changshu and Holiday Inn Sea View Qinhuangdao, situated
in an emerging tourist area.
Starwood is currently building 27 new hotels in China,
with plans for 100 by 2010—50 branded hotels have
also been reported. Meanwhile, Super 8 has the honor of
being China’s largest foreign economy hotel operator
with 96 properties open or opening in 54 cities. That’s
a lot of beds!
Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski
most fabulous newcomer on the leisure front comes courtesy
of the Kempinski group with private access to an un-restored
section of the Great Wall. Open since September 2006,
the modernist The Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski
is a design-award-winning former-museum/commune/celeb
hangout (Renee Zellweger and Anthony Minghella have been
spotted here, among others) that has been transformed
into an official hotel. Spa suites include those for couples
with partial views of the Great Wall and furniture designed
by Philippe Starck and other luminaries.
Of course, spa-goers will want to partake in China’s
new glamour. Massage addicts will be able to enjoy the
Angsana Spa at Sofitel Fizi Tianmu Lake, Jiangsu, China
in 2007. Angsana Spas, managed by the Banyan Tree Spa
group, are among the best in the world.
For those who don’t have time to be pampered on
the company’s clock, the strictly business-oriented
Swissôtel Foshan will launch in 2008 at the 250-story
Foshan International Plaza in that city’s business
district, offering an Executive Club Lounge and conference
You get the idea; name the hotel group and they have or
are building a presence in China: Accor, Le Méridien
Hotels & Resorts, Marriott, Park Plaza, Shangri-La,
Shilla, and the list goes on.
All is not rosy, however, as the golden child of Asia
is guilty of piracy, counterfeiting U.S. goods and not
living up to its trade obligations. Also, according to
a recent Reuters poll of more than 100 economists in twelve
countries, China will see its growth diminish into single
digits for the first time in five years. But these are
not things we worry about. On our mind are luxe spas,
Frette linens, a good hotel restaurant, an infinite number
of pools and a future that looks very bright. Aside from
hotel buildings, architecture in general is exploding.
Top architect Rem Koolhaas is creating the innovative
5-million-square-foot, 54-story television authority headquarters
in Beijing, to open in 2008. We have also heard rumors
that China is getting serious about producing wine.
And it’s not like we’re invading China with
our Louis Vuitton luggage in tow, while the Chinese sit
around at home as we prowl their streets. Would you believe
700,000 Chinese tourists visited France in 2005? The World
Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts 100 million Chinese
will make trips abroad each year by 2020, with an emphasis
on Europe and France in particular.
that same year, coincidentally, the WTO predicts China
will be the number one tourism destination in the world.
So let’s start practicing "a room with a view"
in Mandarin and let’s see what 2007 and the Olympic
spirit of 2008 will bring.
(Updated: 07/16/08 HC)