For Hong Kong-based Swire Hotels, today's mainland Chinese hotel scene is vastly different from the one it entered in 2008 with its first hotel opening, in Beijing.
"A luxury, small-scale hotel in an urban environment did not exist in China at that time," according to Brian Williams, managing director of Swire Hotels. "All of the hotels that had gone in were pretty much the big brands — 300- and 400-room, multiple F&B outlets, ballroom, massive lobby — and they all followed a similar formula."
Under its ultraluxury House brand and corporate-focused East brand, Swire Hotels (whose parent company owns Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific) has forged ahead with its own formula over the ensuing years, building hotels in Hong Kong, mainland China and even in the U.S., where it recently opened the East Miami.
But it's back to China for Swire's next opening, a 111-room House hotel in Shanghai.
The property is slated to open in the second half of 2017, and like all Swire hotels it will be located within a mixed-use development. The Shanghai development, a joint venture with Hong Kong Resorts, will be just off Nanjing Road in "the heart of downtown," Williams said.
He added that like the other House hotels — the 99-room Opposite House in Beijing, the 117-room Upper House in Hong Kong and the 100-room Temple House in Chengdu — the Shanghai property will emphasize a "sense of place," "great restaurants and bars" and will engage with local artists to adorn its interiors with contemporary artwork.
And while East properties are designed with business-friendly amenities in mind, "what's also interesting, particularly with House, is trying to identify whether somebody's on leisure or business," Williams said. "People can often refer to a hotel and say, 'We're 60% corporate, 40% leisure.' I often say we're 30% corporate, 30% leisure, 40% we don't have a clue, because they just book."
That unexpected mix also extends to guests' nationalities, at least at Swire's newest China property.
"At the Temple House in Chengdu, we're finding that we're filling up every weekend mostly with local, mainland Chinese travelers," Williams said. "So suddenly you've got an urban leisure business from a domestic market. That did not exist eight years ago; that's a fascinating progression."