Shangri-La properties get face-lift

NEW YORK -- Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts spent $200 million in property upgrades in the last two years; now it has begun launching its first hotels outside Asia -- in Australia and the Middle East.

In other news, the group reports properties are back on track after the losses incurred by SARS earlier in the year. Kent Zhu, Shangri-La's vice president of sales and marketing for China, said the company's business in China is better than it was a year ago for 14 of the 16 properties there, and the two that aren't beating last year's numbers lag for reasons unrelated to SARS.

He said all markets are back, including the U.S. Part of the recovery, he said, represents postponed business travel; some, postponed conferences.

"We believe people are seeking better hotels for security and hygiene [reasons]," he said.

SARS is no longer front and center, but it is not forgotten. Zhu said Shangri-La has prepared a manual laying out steps to be taken if the disease resurfaces. But if it does, he added, it will be contained much more quickly because it will be recognized the next time around.

Meanwhile, he and other Shangri-La executives reported on key developments in their markets as follows:

• Judging by dollars spent and local enthusiasm, the biggest news comes from Singapore where, in mid-September, the 760-unit Shangri-La Singapore reopened its exclusive 136-unit Valley Wing after a six-month, $31.8 million overhaul.

Cetin Sekercioglu, the hotel's general manager, said the debut includes a number of new elements all designed to offer "privacy, luxury and connectivity, " from a private elevator to an upgraded lobby with champagne bar, broadband Internet access and an all-in-one fax, printer and copier with private fax number. Guests in suites are provided with a laptop, as well.

• A $31 million upgrade to public areas and all 700 guest rooms at the Kowloon Shangri-La will be done this month.

Belinda Goh, director of sales and marketing, at the Kowloon (China) Shangri-La, said the enhancements include two new "concept" restaurants: the Ta-

pas Bar and Cafe Kool, featuring buffets of varying cuisines. All rooms have broadband Internet connections and three telephones, including a line for teleconferencing. As of July, an "IT butler" service provides technical support 24/7 to guests in all rooms.

Horizon Club floors (designed for business executives) feature as a machine used as a printer, copier, scanner and fax; a flat-screen TV with surround sound; a cordless telephone (to be available soon) that can be used throughout the hotel; and a fully adjustable, ergonomic chair.

• The $30 million upgrade to all of the China World Hotel's public spaces and its 716 rooms, completed in August, was described as Beijing's most expensive hotel facelift.

That investment yielded such features as an "oxygen room" in the refitted health club and the Premier room category, the moniker for units of nearly 600 square feet each.

The hotel's casual restaurant was transformed into the "Scene a cafe," a coffee shop/entertainment venue, New amenities for guests include "airport butler" services, including assistance with customs and immigration.

• Completed this August, renovations at the Makati Shangri-La in Manila, Philippines, cost $25 million, according to Jarlath Lynch, general manager. All 699 rooms were redesigned and decorated with fabrics in muted earth colors.

Lynch said he is frequently asked about security in Manila and the hotel. First, declaring Manila "a safe and wonderful city," he said the hotel monitors 200 cameras on property and employs 80 security personnel and five dogs, all to foster guest comfort about the subject. A company spokeswoman said Shangri-La recently spent "several million" on the best in security technology.

• The 839-room Shangri-La Bangkok invested $22 million in its recent renovation; most of the work was completed early this year, but the last touch, a new cafe, opens this month. All rooms were overhauled, but statements by Pipat Patthananusorn, the property's director of business development, emphasized the enlarged lobby, a two-story affair designed to turn guests' eyes toward grand views of the Chao Phraya River.

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