Posts tagged ILTM

China prospects at the Cote d’Azur

Nice red cars in front of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, France


The ILTM Cannes 2013 report



After a heroic helicopter flight to Cannes, France, which was followed by a fabulous turbot at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc (it was a wild one, according to the menu), JSB last week attended the official opening of the leading luxury fair ILTM (“International Luxury Travel Market“) at the city’s famous Festival Centre. Besides talking about “luxury as the new religion“, they denied the existence of an economical crisis there. And they preached a “living instead of owning“-lifestyle. We were sure to be at the right place at the right time.


On the following days (Dec. 3rd and 4th) an exclusive crowd was allowed in to meet up to 1,450 luxury tourism exhibitors. We got one of the sought-after festival passes and especially looked out for Greater China news. We didn’t have to search for long, as the international brands’ run to China is unbowed.


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Promising hotel openings


For the Mandarin Oriental hotel group China is already the second largest source of business (17 percent), and it will presumably soon overtake the US market in importance. At present there are four future mainland China properties in development. The one in Beijing is scheduled to open next year, followed by Chengdu (2015), Chongquing (2016), and Shenzhen (2017). Furthermore there will be a new MO in Taipei soon.


An up-and-coming brand is Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. They plan to double their properties (currently 18) within the next five years. They recently opened at a top location in London (near the Royal Opera House) and just announced to take over the prestigious Hotel de Crillon in Paris in spring 2015 (believe it or not: Marie Antoinette took piano lessons there). The future top player also reaches out for China: Early 2014 they will open an arty hotel in Beijing’s Chaoyang District (朝阳区), right across the CCTV Tower. Its homepage already looks extremely promising. The Rosewood Chongqing will be the group’s second China opening (2015).



Hot springs / Individual travelers booming


After plastering the main cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong) and hoisting flags in China’s secondary megacities, the Chinese luxury market has finally discovered the beauty of nature. Last year we already reported about the Six Senses plan to open a sustainable resort at Sichuan’s Qing Cheng Mountain, which now is scheduled to open in June 2014 (we promised to stick to it, remember). There is more to come: From early 2016 on the Six Senses Wuma will play on Taiwan’s hot springs near Taitung. Hot springs will also be the main theme in Ninghai (near Ningbo, Zhejiang province). The group however is cautious with announcing an opening date (“The sooner, the better”).


Other resort brands joined this trend. Thailand based Anantara – a pioneer in terms of conservation activities – opened this year the Anantara Xishuangbanna, which is the first five-star resort in Yunnan’s scenic pu-erh tea region. Next month the group is furthermore planning to open its third property (there is another one in Sanya already): The Anantara Emei will be located right on the foot of the Emei Shan, which is considered one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains in China (Sichuan province). Its Buddhist statues are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.



Banyan Tree is another rapidly emerging company (headquarter: Singapore) that considers sustainability an important part of its philosophy. After hotels in Shanghai (2012) and Tianjin (2013) it opened its first Chinese hot spring resort in Beibei near Chongqing this year. More than a dozen hotels are scheduled to open within the next four years. Listed for next year are spa resorts in Yangshuo (Guangxi province) and Huangshan (Anhui province). Under its Angsana brand Banyan Tree also launched a resort in Tengchong. It will be followed by the Angsana Xian Lingtong (Shaanxi province).


This wave of new resort hotels shows the growing importance of individual luxury travelers in China. According to David Spooner, Banyan Tree’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, already 63% percent of the Chinese travel individually, many of whose are under 35 years of age.


Pearl of the fair


Besides the above mentioned hotel brands we found an exquisite independent property that opened very recently in Beijing: The Lv Garden Huanghuali Art Gallery is – as you can already tell by its name – a hotel with a museum-like character. The architectural theme undoubtedly is the Forbidden City. It only has 38 rooms, all of which are decorated with original traditional Chinese art and classic huanghuali furniture. The hotel restaurant follows a farm-to-table approach and serves what it calls “Yan Cuisine”: traditional food presented in a modern way. It is a member of the Preferred Boutique hotel association.


“The Chinese started to see the importance of sustainability”

Marie Giuge Perry is the Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Six Senses Hotels. With JSB she talked about the Six Senses future plans for China. The interview was held at the ILTM in Cannes, France, earlier this month.


You are going to open the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in October 2013. It will be your first property in China. What can you already tell us about it?


It will be situated near the city of Chengdu, Sichuan, on the last plateau on the way to Tibet. Around the city there are a lot of World Heritage Sites. You find a lot of Taoist temples in the surrounding mountains. One of them is Qing Cheng Mountain (青城山). It is a mythical place. It is said that at the Qing Cheng Mountain the Yellow Emperor Huáng Dí – who allegedly was the first emperor of China – formed the idea of a Chinese nation.


The hotel will be located just at the bottom of that mountain, so we will offer a direct access to the World Heritage Site there. We will be 30 minutes from the airport and less than one hour from the city centre of Chengdu.


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Sounds like a paradise both of culture and nature…


Yes, apart from the World Heritage Sites the region is very well known for giant pandas. We are really lucky, as a couple of months ago the Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Pandas has moved to close-by.


Was it hard to find the right location in China?


No, because a lot of Chinese companies wanted to work with us and approached us in the forefront of the project. We actually had a lot of choices, and we especially fell in love with Qing Cheng Mountain. It was exactly what we were looking for. It is accessible but remote. In the middle of a wonderful nature it is the perfect base for excursions.


So this means that the property is not owned by Six Senses but by a Chinese investor?


Yes, it is a Chinese investor. But we are more than only a managing company as we participate from the scratch. We have our own creative team in Bangkok where we fully design our hotels.


How will it look like?


It will be a very beautiful property. We are basically recreating Chinese style villages with a water feature and the typical curved roofs.



Everything will be newly built?


Yes, but of course in the Six Senses style. This means that we will use a lot of natural materials, building the hotel as sustainable as possible, and trying to keep the carbon footprints on a low level. There will be 111 suites and a few villas. Around 30 to 40 suites will have their own courtyard. It will be ideal for families or small groups. There will be also a conference centre, so we will welcome business groups as well. We will have three or four restaurants, providing both Western and Sichuan cuisine.


Are there any other 5-star-luxury-hotels in the Mount Qing Cheng area?


There are a lot of 5-star-properties in Chengdu, mostly big corporate hotels. I heard that there will be also a boutique hotel opening soon, but at the Qing Cheng Mountain we will be the first.


Upscale hotels in China often face problems in their service quality due to the high demand of well trained personnel and due to a high employee turnover. How will you deal with that problem?


This situation is not new for us and can be compared with our first opening in Vietnam 15 years ago. Everywhere we go we try to hire a maximum of local people because that is the most sustainable way. We call them hosts, because hosting our guests is what they do. Recruiting local hosts is not always possible, of course, but Chengdu is a big city. I am sure we will find good people for our management team there. Our General Manager will be a Westerner, but our Director of Marketing is from Qing Cheng Mountains, and she had also been in Chengdu for many years.
In all of our properties we employ people who had other jobs before. They used to be fishermen, for example, or worked in tailor shops. We train them to success. Often you can feel their passion for their new function. Besides that, our clients have always been very generous to us. If they see that the hosts are trying their best, then they forgive if not everything is absolutely perfect.


Who will be the guests?


This is difficult to say. It will be probably Chinese by majority. But we have also started to promote the property outside of China, and we have received a lot of interest already. Especially the UK market is responding very positively, also the German one and the French one. This for sure has to do with the surrounding World Heritage Sites but also with the fact that our hotel will be perfectly located on the way to Tibet.


Chinese tourists might have other expectations than Westerners. What are you going to do differently compared to other Six Senses properties?


We will do everything in Chinese. This will also include the restaurants. Chinese have very high expectations regarding the food. We will have the best Sichuan cuisine restaurant, but also a very good Western restaurant. Many Chinese love wine, so we will have a wonderful wine cellar, too. We always think regionally, so I think in general we will not act very differently than elsewhere.


But you will act differently than many other hotels. Sustainability is a core part of the Six Senses philosophy. Yet this is not very often seen in China.


I think that a lot of Chinese are awakening at the moment. They already started to see the importance of sustainability.


Do you consider yourself as a trendsetter regarding sustainability in China?


Definitely! We do not pretend that we are always doing the things perfectly, but we are always trying.


What exactly will be sustainable about the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, besides using a lot of natural materials?


First of all we will grow a certain amount of own vegetables, and we will buy at local farmers from very near the hotel. Furthermore we try as much as possible in terms of energy and water conservation. We will implement our own mineral water concept, which is a very strong statement in the five-star industry. In every Six Senses property we stopped to import mineral water, so you will not find Evian or Perrier there. We are the first ones who started with this. We have our own water treatment plants. We add minerals before filling the water into glass bottles. Producing our own mineral water – with gas as well as still water – helps us to reduce our carbon footprints. And together with that, we do not support the production of plastic bottles anymore. We provide our water for free in the rooms. In our restaurants the water is sold at a low price, from which 50 percent goes to water charity.


Water charity?


Yes, to an organization that supports the access to plain water. We will be the first doing this in China.


It is said that there are plans for a second Six Senses property in China. Where will this be?


I cannot tell you now. You will have to wait with this question until the end of January or maybe the beginning of February. We will have plenty of news then.


We promise to stick to it.


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!