In Beijing these days, it's all Olympics, all the time. So it comes as no surprise to Raffles Beijing Hotel manager Peter Wynne that the 2008 International Olympic Committee chose his hotel for delegates arriving for the Summer Games next August.

Located at one of Beijing's most distinguished addresses, the hotel is within walking distance of some of the best of the old and the new the city has to offer.

A half-block away from the Wangfujing shopping district, often referred to as Beijing's Rodeo Drive, the Raffles Beijing Hotel is also just a five-minute walk from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Historical hospitality

In fact, the hotel itself is a study in the best of history and modern luxury.

It opened last December, after a year of renovations, as a self-contained section of the historic Beijing Hotel. Raffles renovated rooms in the original circa-1900 building as well as in a wing of new rooms in an adjoining building that also houses one of the property's four restaurants and bars, along with the Amrita fitness center and spa.

While Beijing boasts a number of modern luxury hotels catering to international business travelers visiting the Chinese capital, the Raffles Beijing Hotel stands out because of its history. Its pedigree is apparent from the moment guests walk through into the grand lobby, which has high ceilings, polished marble and an eclectic mix of early 20th century French and Chinese decor.

Signature French restaurant Jaan is adjacent to a 1920s dance floor, complete with its original grand piano. Other eateries and lounges are East 33, La Vie and the Writers' Bar.

Instead of carpeting, hallways are lined with unique rugs. Rooms feature a mix of 19th century traditional Chinese furniture; black-and-white historical photos; and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, cappuccino machines and whirlpool tubs.

The hotel has 171 rooms, with five Grand Hotel suites and nine Personality Suites, which have been named after and renovated to reflect the personalities associated with the hotel back in its original heyday.

It also has the largest suite in Beijing, the 9,515-square-foot Presidential Suite.

While most of the five-star hotels in Beijing have been built to cater to business travelers, Wynne said Raffles' expansion in China also targets what he anticipates will be a rise in the number of high-end leisure travelers.

"This is where there is going to be a shift after the Olympics: less corporate focus and more high-end leisure," he said.

To tap into that prospective market, Raffles is building hotels in Tianjin and Shanghai, and is "looking at many other cities [in China], as well," according to Wynne.

For more on Raffles Beijing Hotel, visit www.beijing.raffles.com.

To contact reporter Jeri Clausing, send e-mail to [email protected].

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