China's hotel industry booms, for the big and smaller

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Reflecting China's growing economy, the country's hotel industry continues to boom with an influx from larger international players such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts and new luxury offerings from smaller entrants such as Nikko Hotels International and Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts.

This summer, Starwood marked a milestone of growth in China, announcing its 100th location in the country with the Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel, set to open in December 2010.

Starwood's China milestone

Situated in Beijing's Dongcheng District, the Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel is located near Third Ring Road, considered the heart of the city's transportation network, giving it close proximity to 2008 Olympics venues; business and financial areas; and Tiananmen Square.

The hotel will offer 470 rooms and about 36,000 square feet of meetings space; a health club; spa; indoor, heated swimming pool; three restaurants; and a bar. The Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng is part of the final phase of the Global Trade Center, a mixed-use complex offering offices, retail shops, condominiums and serviced apartments.

The first international hotel chain to open an outlet in China, in 1985, Starwood has also become the largest global upscale hotel chain operating in the country.

The Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng is just the latest example of growth for Starwood in the Asia-Pacific region. The hotel chain is expected to double its portfolio in China by 2011 and has 80 hotels under construction, with greater China accounting for more than half of the new locations.

Starwood has 43 hotels in the country with 57 properties scheduled to open: 22 Sheraton hotels, 12 Four Points by Sheraton properties, eight Westins, five W hotels, four St. Regis properties, three Meridiens, two Aloft venues and one Luxury Collection-branded property.

"With strong domestic demand, an increasing affinity for global brands and international inbound travel on the rise, our opportunity in China is perhaps unsurpassed anywhere in the world," said Simon Turner, president of global development for Starwood.

"What's more, by 2020, China is expected to generate over 100 million outbound trips a year, more than triple its current output, making it one of the largest origins of outbound travel in the world," he added. "As the Chinese travel abroad, they look for brands they know, and therefore Starwood's development in China today has significant implications for our hotels worldwide."

Going five-star in Guangzhou

Smaller hotel chains are also experiencing growth in China. Peninsula Hotels will open the Peninsula Shanghai in September 2009, fronting the historical Bund area.

Dubai-based Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts will manage its second China property as of 2011, when the 200-room, five-star Jumeirah Guangzhou Hotel opens in the New Pearl City Tianhe District. In early 2009, Jumeirah will open its first China hotel, the Jumeirah HanTang Xintiandi in Shanghai.

For its part, JAL Hotels Co. announced plans to open a Nikko Hotels International five-star property in Guangzhou. The Hotel Nikko Guangzhou will be Nikko's eighth hotel in China and is scheduled to open in March 2010 in Guangzhou Tianhe Software Park, considered one of China's most prominent software manufacturing hubs.

Nikko has two China properties slated to open next year: the Hotel Nikko Shanghai, expected to open in summer 2009, and the Hotel Nikko Wuxi, to debut in fall 2009.

At 13 stories and 603,000 square feet, the Hotel Nikko Guangzhou will offer 411 guestrooms catering to both business and leisure clientele with facilities such as Japanese and Chinese eateries, banquet rooms, a fitness club and a business center.

"With so many major international companies now operating in Guangzhou, the city is booming," said Katsumi Chiyo, president and CEO of JAL Hotels Co. "Hotel Nikko Guangzhou will help meet some of the big demand for luxury accommodations.

"We're very pleased we'll be adding yet another five-star property to our portfolio of hotels in China," he added.

Guangzhou remains a popular business travel destination. Each April and October, business travelers from all over the world attend the Guangzhou Fair, China's largest export trade event.

While Guangzhou is known mostly as a major commerce center, the city also plays host to tourists visiting historical sites such as the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, a fifth century pagoda; Shamiam Island, a one-time home for foreign merchants located on the Pearl River and known for its exceptional European architecture; and the tomb of the Han Dynasty Nanyue King, dating to the second century B.C. and discovered and excavated in the 1980s.

"It is crucial for us to open a hotel in Guangzhou," said Chiyo. "I strongly feel that we have built a reputation in China with our quality service and excellent hotel operations and that Nikko Hotels is an essential part of the growing travel industry in China."

Echoing Starwood's Turner, Chiyo also observed that building the Nikko brand has wider implications for business in other countries.

"We are now seeing more and more Chinese visitors in Japan," he said. "None of our hotels used to accept the China UnionPay card [mainland China's only authorized credit card] but now that is changing due to the number of Chinese guests."

Nikko hotels currently open in China include Beijing's Jinglun Hotel and Hotel Nikko New Century; Hotel Nikko Hong Kong; Hotel Nikko Dailan; and Hotel Nikko Tianjin.

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