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Six Senses sets back the opening date for the group’s first property

Dreams of the future: Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain | © Six SensesIn an interview with Marie Giuge Perry from past December we announced October 2013 as the opening month of the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain. According to the hotel’s website this date was adjusted to “early 2014”. We were not able to find out what exactly caused this delay, as our inquiries concerning this matter failed to be answered by the group. Probably it has to do with the usual bunch of unexpected challenges. konya masaj salonu It will be the group’s first property in China.

 

Interview with Marie Giuge Perry

Hotel website

 

 

Vivienne Tam designs a signature fan for Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou fan by Vivienne Tam
Last week the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group officially opened their second hotel in mainland China (there is one in Sanya already), not far away from their Hong Kong headquarters, in Guangzhou. More than 200 VIP guests followed the unveiling of the hotel’s individual fan designed by Vivienne Tam. The Guangzhou born and New York based fashion designer is known for combining East and West in her work.

 

[Update from April 9th, 2013:] The fan consists of 32 patterns, one for each fold. Each pattern would make a beautiful fan for itself, but the colourful mix is obviously is thought to express the diversity of Guangzhou, the city to which it is dedicated to. [End of the update]

 

Located in the business district Tianhe, the MO Guangzhou is part of the Swire managed TaiKoo Hui complex, which was designed by the worldwide active architecture company Arquitectonica. It houses around 170 luxury brands and a cultural centre.

 

The interior of the Mandarin Oriental was designed by Tony Chi & Associates, who also is responsible for one of my favorite hotels, the Landmark MO Hong Kong. The MO Guangzhou has a manageable amount of 233 rooms, 30 suites and 24 apartments. The Standard Rooms measure comfortable 60 square meters, hence currently the biggest in the city. There are five restaurants and bars, a spa with nine treatment rooms, and a heated 25-meter-indoor-pool.

 

Hotel website

I bet you want to book a room at the Peninsula….

…after watching this video:

 

 

There are business hotels and there are leisure accommodations. And then there are Peninsula Hotels. In fact, the Hong Kong based luxury accommodations chain meets the challenge of combining both characteristics, like probably no other brand on the market.

 

I had the chance to stay at two of their properties so far. Last year I slept my way through the high-end hotels of Los Angeles; with the Peninsula Beverly Hills being by far the most welcoming accommodation on that trip (regular guests find their initials embroidered on their pillows!). In 2010 I even stayed at the famous “Pen” in Hong Kong, which made it onto my personal world’s-best-five-hotels list. It has it all: A great history, a perfectly attentive staff, an unparalleled view out of its steam bath, and a maximum of elegance combined with a certain low-key approach – despite its ownership of the largest private Rolls Royce fleet in the world.

 

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What makes the Peninsula brand so special is among other reasons its long-term way of thinking. The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited, as the sole owner company is called, busily works on maintaining its existing hotels at the edge of perfection, rather than to compete in the general run of hotel openings, as most of the other brands do. The cultivation of its image stands above all.

 

Visualized Hospitality

 

Last year the hotel group started to release a short film series called “Peninsula moments”. Every month there is another video published that features a certain Peninsula property. The films are produced by the highly acclaimed Ridley Scott Associates, and directed by Jean-Claude Thibaut and Antony Crook. I think each of these pieces make you want to book a guest room there.

 

The first hotel video was about the chain’s flagship in Hong Kong:

 

 

There are also a “Making of” clips:

 

Hong Kong:

 

 

Beijing:

 

Besides Hong Kong and Beijing there is a third Greater China Peninsula property in Shanghai.

 

Stay tuned!

 

China stimulates short-term tourism

FourSeasonsBeijingSince the beginning of this year the People’s Republic of China is offering transit passengers in Beijing and Shanghai a visa-free 72-hour stay (more details here). That’s a clever move from the officials. People now might be seduced to prolong their transfer time and to leave some additional cash. Between 600,000 and 800,000 additional visitors expected to make use of this new possibility in this year alone.

 

Without the annoying need to run to a Chinese embassy prior to departure, they will be able to see the Forbidden City or to experience some great cuisine at the Bund – or just get pampered: The Four Seasons Beijing latterly promises to make the best out of your short stay. Besides a limousine pick-up at the airport with Chinese tea refreshments included, the hotel offers tailor made itineraries. In the context of the hotel’s so-called City Explore program, the hotel assures to show their guests authentic insider locations – according to the guests’  islam preferences.

 

I have never been to the Four Seasons Beijing so far, but its homepage makes me want to experience it one day. The hotel houses auspiciously looking contemporary Chinese artwork (more here), and its newly opened hotel restaurant called Cai Yi Xuan is “deconstructing” Dim Sum (more here).

 

The prices for the stopover packages (two nights) start at CNY 7,400 (around € 915).

 

Four Seasons Beijing / link to the transfer package

 

 

Hong Kong’s leading role

Awards are unfair. Is the world famous “Noma” restaurant in Copenhagen really better than any other restaurant on this planet? Does Steven Spielberg really provide us with a more creative movie language, as the recent Academy Awards tried to make us believe, compared with other masters like Quentin Tarantino or Michael Haneke? The answer to these questions, let’s be honest, is probably “no”. How could you find a ranking for equally outstanding or equally creative achievements?

 

However, we do love awards. They help us to find reference points and to define trends. They make decisions easier. They provide journalists with something to write about, and they support the particular industry. Awards are good, and they always give a reason to party.

 

Recently Asia’s crème de la crème chefs and restaurant managers shook their arms and legs in Singapore. They celebrated the first revealing of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a new ranking that was created by 900 “international leaders in the restaurant industry “, and which was organized by William Reed Business Media (more about the voting rules can be found here).

 

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It ranks The Landmark Mandarin Oriental‘s Amber restaurant in Hong Kong on the fourth place, making it the allegedly best dining place in China. The most often named location on the list is Singapore (10), followed by Hong Kong (9), Tokyo (7), and Shanghai and Bangkok (each with 5). Remarkably, also a restaurant from Hangzhou made it onto that exclusive sheet. It’s a Hyatt Regency hotel restaurant called 28 HuBin Road, serving traditional local cuisine. Too bad I did not go there, when I was in Hangzhou the last time (click here for the JSB Hangzhou posts). After all, more-than-ever-booming Macau is mentioned once, too. The full list can be studied here in detail.

 

Next to these highly new accolades, the Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards have been an integral part in the award business since the 1950’s (then called the Mobile Travel Guide Awards). It’s an annually list of what is thought to be the world’s best hotels, restaurants, and spas. They are more or less divided into two categories – “Five Star” & “Four Star” – and within these categories they are equally listed, which is a nice way to avoid annoying discussions. This year’s winner in the China section is Hong Kong with seven “Five Star Rating Award” hotels, followed by Macau (5), Shanghai (2), and for the first time also Beijing (with Shangri-La’s China World Summit Wing). Looking at the list I think that all of these hotels deserve their awards. However, it seems that the judges completely left out the so-called secondary cities in China. Why is the Four Seasons Hotel at West Lake in Hangzhou not on the list, to name only one property that immediately comes into my mind?

 

Some hotels celebrated an across-the-board success after conquering the judges’ hearts in both award-giving institutions. One of the main winners is the Four Seasons Hong Kong, rated “Five Star” for both its hotel and its spa by Forbes Travel Guide, and furthermore twice ranked in “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” list for its Caprice (12th, French cuisine) and its Lung King Heen (13th, Cantonese cuisine).

 

These awards show that Hong Kong is setting the benchmarks for luxury tourism China, with Shanghai and Macau in the rear mirror.

 

Would Confucius dine at the Shangri-La hotel?

At least since the intoxicating book on Fuchsia Dunlop’s culinary travels “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” the Western world knows that Confucius was a picky wise man when it came to food:

 

His rice is not excessively refined, and his sliced meat is not cut excessively fine. Rice that has become putrid and sour, fish that has spoiled, and meat that has gone bad, he does not eat. Undercooked foods he does not eat, and foods served at improper times he does not eat. Meat that is improperly carved, he does not eat, and if he does not obtain the proper sauce, he will not eat. (p. 208)

 

Confucius lived in Qufu (曲阜市) at a time when the city was part of the so-called Lu state (魯國, around 1042–249 BC). Imbedded in today’s Shandong province it has been listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. People come to see the Temple of Confucius (Kǒng Miào, 孔庙), the Kong Family Mansion (Kǒng Fǔ, 孔府), and to stroll around the woods of the Kong family (Kǒng Lín, 孔林), which is in fact a cemetery where also Confucius is buried.

 

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Very near the Temple of Confucius there is a new Shangri-La hotel scheduled to open soon. Its cuisine will partly revive the tradition of the Kong family (Confucius’ original name Kǒng Qiu, 孔丘). Before the kitchen personnel would start to cut loose there, they already got their knives out in several other Shangri-La hotels in South East Asia. In January they kicked off their road show in Qingdao, which was followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei. From March 9th they will stop by in Bangkok (until March 15th) and in Jakarta (March 19th to 25th). These kind of tiny pop-up-festivals will in each case take place at the hotel’s Shang Palaces, the Cantonese restaurant brand of the Hong Kong based hotel chain.

 

I know that from a journalistic point of view it seems a bit awkward to cite a press release longer than, let’s say, three lines. However, I found this release from the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei highly interesting to read, so here it comes in bulk:

A classic menu item is the “Six Arts” Cold Appetizers Platter (spiced beef shanks, jelly fish salad, spiced duck tongue, sea whelk jelly salad, scallop skirt and lettuce salad, and baby celery with sesame and olive oil). Each appetizer represents a category in the “Six Arts,” which Confucius advocated at the time; the arts are Rites, Music, Archery, Chariot Racing, Calligraphy and Mathematics.

 
Kong Mansion’s Eight Seafood Treasures in Superior Broth, Lu Wall’s Hidden Collection (prawn roll wrapped in crispy vermicelli), the Three Ingredients Soup (soup cooked with chicken, duck and pig trotters), and Kong Family’s Special Four Treasures (braised chicken, braised fish, braised pork and meal roll of minced chicken breast and prawns wrapped with seaweed) are also signature dishes found in Kong Family cuisine.

 

Many dishes commemorate Confucius and impart stories related to him. One example is called Wisdom Frees Perplexity (braised pork ribs stuffed with spring onion stalk). Legend has it that the dish was created during Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s era of the burning of the books and live burial of scholars. It was said that in order to preserve the Kong family line, a minister named Zhang Ge exchanged his own son for the life of a Kong family male descendent. In the process, this dish was created to pass on secret information. Mirroring the concept of the story, pork rib bones are removed and replaced with the stalk of a scallion. The meat is deep-fried and finished with a rich sauce.

 
The Kirin Imperial Book dish (deep-fried snapper with crispy skin) tells another tale. Rumor has it that just before the birth of Confucius, one Kirin – a mythical Chinese creature believed to bring good omen and that looks like a unicorn with scales – made its appearance in the neighborhood of the Kong family with a jade stone in its mouth. On the jade was written, “From a defeated kingdom rose a new emperor – a spiritual leader.” The fish, marinated in Chinese wine, is deep-fried with scales until golden brown, which resembles the skin of a Kirin.
In total there are 25 à la carte dishes and three set menus on offer. The culinary team consists of Executive Chef Ng Kok-Leong, Banquet Sous Chef Washington Lin, the two senior chefs Perry Kong and Sam Liu, and Sous Chef Frank Chen. In addition, two “storytellers” from Qufu are traveling with the chefs, to help unfold more exciting tales related to the dishes.

 

Sources / Links:
“Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” (Ebury Press, 2008) / Fuchsia Dunlop
Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel / Press release

 

When luxury becomes affordable

During my flight to the Taiwan’s Latern Festival I yesterday read a short but interesting article in the Financial Times. It seems that luxury food supliers are going through a hard time at the moment.

 

According to the report Chinese government officials have strongly cut back the spendings for this year’s festivities around the Chinese new year. Up-scale restaurants in Bejing lost around 30 per cent, in Shanghai 20 per cent, during the new year season. The FT is citing these numbers from Xinhua, the state news agency. These numbers are disclosing the big deal of chief officers supporting the luxury service business. Furthermore they are a sign for the high degree of awareness regarding corruption issues at the moment. It looks like officials are very keen in this moment not to make headlines in a negative consens. The FT cited a western business man telling them that it has even become hard to find any civil servants VIPs to invite. Do they fear traps?

 

However, as much as this could be either regarded as a success of the system critics, there are other winners, too: The overall restaurant spending rose by 5 to 18 percent. And prices of luxury drinks have become more affordable now. The prices for the famous sorghum liquor Maotai fell about 30 per cent, according to the ministry.

 

China: A core pillar of current development

 

China’s dynamic market was allusively one of the key topics on this year’s International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes, France. Held in the city’s Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – famous for also serving as the venue for the Cannes Film Festival – from December 3rd to the 6th it brought together around 2,700 VIP buyers and sellers, making it probably the most important luxury tourism fair on earth.

 

Nearly all of the leading luxury hotel chains were there, some of which presented their future plans at the Media Centre to a selected crowd of luxury travel editors and writers. One of them was Duncan O’Rourke, Chief Operating Officer of the German-although-Thai-owned Kempinski Hotels. He proclaimed the group’s ambitious plan to become “the global market leader of food and beverage”. Furthermore he announced that Kempinski is planning to open 85 (!) new hotels in the next twelve months, 18 of which will be in China – i.e. in Chongqing (重庆), Taiyuan (太原), and Yixing (宜兴). And as if that were not enough, he announced the creation of Nuo. This new Asian-Chinese-concept-hotel-brand will focus on the needs of Chinese business leaders and will start from 2015 in the primary cities Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. O’Rourke agreed to give JSB an interview in the near future in order to talk about these breaking topics in detail.

 

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Ritz-Carlton informed about a new co-operation with Mercedes Benz: From now on Chinese Mercedes Platinum Card holders will receive a very special papering. This will include among others an upgrade to a suite by booking “only” a club room.

 

After hard times Regent Hotels & Resorts are trying to get a lasting food back into the global luxury market. Their president Ralf W. Ohletz pointed out an architectural impact of specific requirements of Chinese tourists: The balconies of future hotels in China’s secondary cities will provide constructional sun protections, instead of opened balconies that are generally common in the West.

 

Paul James, Global Brand Leader of three luxury brands under the Starwood Hotels and Resorts umbrella (St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels) pointed out his idea to classify the “new” global locations as part of a modern Grand Tour. New openings of The Luxury Collection in 2012 included the hotels Twelve at Hengshan in Shanghai and The Royal Begonia in Sanya. A new W hotel is scheduled to open in Guangzhou in the first quarter of 2013.

 

A much more moderate expansion policy is pursued by the Peninsula Hotels. This exclusive group will open only one new hotel next year, and this will not be in China. The reason is worth the praise: The company does not only manage all of its hotels, it also owns them, which wisely leads to smaller but more enduring steps. Nevertheless there will be China related Peninsula news in 2013: The legendary Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong will finish a 55 million Euro renovation in April 2013. From then, all the rooms will provide a state-of-the-art design that was inspired by contemporary jets & yachts. Besides that, local artists were involved in designing the new interior.

 

Furthermore I had an interesting chat with Marie Giuge Perry, Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Six Senses Resorts & Spas. With a new property opening in 2013 near Chengdu they want herald a new age of sustainable tourism in China. An interview with Mrs. Giuge Perry will be published on JSB very soon. Stay tuned!