Every year, China’s affluent travelers become savvier, travel to further destinations, and have changing expectations that have recently made enriching experiences a priority for vacationers. Worldwide hoteliers have rushed to serve these tourists not only on the mainland but in popular destinations around the world. China luxury hotel openings this year have revealed themes in hospitality, marketing, and branding that are helping an increasingly competitive scene to thrive and appeal to millennial luxury seekers. From contemporary art and fashion hubs to health and fitness innovators, here are the top 10 new hotels that caught our attention this year.
1. Wanda Reign Shanghai
Dalian Wanda attracted attention from hospitality media worldwide when the company, headed by billionaire Wang Jianlin, opened a hotel branded as being higher end than its five-star Vista. Reviewers were quick to label the Shanghai newcomer as having a seven-star rating, a title claimed by the likes of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, and it’s easy to see why: The 193-room hotel on Shanghai’s Bund combines the city’s iconic Art Deco design with grandiose décor, butler services, a private KTV and wine bar, and the luxuries of modern tech, like heated marble floors and massage chairs in the suites. Wanda says it never called the Reign a seven-star hotel, but it certainly doesn’t shy away from seeing just how far it can take swank.
2. InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun
The capital’s trendy Sanlitun district welcomed a new towering InterContinental, which shares a structure with the newly opened Mercedes me experience store and Topwin shopping center. At night, its honeycomb-style LED display puts on a light show for Sanlitun’s shoppers, and by day, the hotel plays host to workout junkies in its fifth-floor Green Essence spa and gym, which is operated by another company. Green Essence recently celebrated its official opening with a relief from the cold weather by throwing an indoor pool party featuring a DJ, and cocktails by local pressed juice team Juice by Melissa.
Beijing’s Sanlitun district welcomed a boutique, Chinese-owned hotel this year with a property that has its own multi-purpose spaces, a cinema, a co-working space, and a member’s-only club that boasts giving those who opt in a shot at the “Good Life.” Fueled by an appreciation for all things lifestyle, CHAO aims to bring not only its travelers, but Beijing’s own discerning creative community an upscale, minimal-style space to host events, including gallery openings, weddings, food festivals, and more.
4. The Ritz Carlton Mission Hills
With the passing of golfing legend Arnold Palmer this year, Chinese golf enthusiasts remembered the impact he had on its own industry. If anyone needed proof as to just how important the sport is in China, Hainan is now home to a 201-room resort and golf complex courtesy of The Ritz Carlton and China’s biggest golf club, Mission Hills. When the resort officially starts taking guests in January, it will be able to tee off on not just one, but 10 state-of-the-art golf courses.
5. EAST, Miami
Over the summer, Hong Kong-owned developer Swire opened its first hotel outside of Greater China in Miami. Much like its other properties, Swire’s new tourist spot combines a sprawling shopping mall with a movie theater and restaurants, residences, offices, and the 352-room hotel. While the space no doubt is designed to appeal to international travelers, Miami is experiencing a surge in Chinese tourists, and Swire’s experience in the Chinese market means EAST is better prepared to provide China’s outbound travelers with accommodation that suits their needs.
6. Beijing Hotel NUO
Beijing’s luxury hotelier NUO made an imprint on 2016 by taking over one of Beijing’s most historical hotels located on Chang’an Avenue, formerly called the Grand Hotel de Pekin. Operated by the state-owned Beijing Tourism Group and formerly managed by Raffles, the switch brings the nearly century-old property that once was run by the French and played host to Chairman Mao’s meetings back to Chinese branding.
7. The Sanya Edition
Hainan has been marketed by the Chinese government in major ways this year to attract Chinese domestic tourists, so its no surprise that this destination is among China’s cities attracting extravagant, international resort properties. Capitalizing on the island’s surge of tourism this year is The Sanya Edition, a boutique concept by hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International. The breathtakingly sprawling property offers guests two private pools, a collection of Chinese contemporary art, and stunning pavilions designed by Singapore’s SCDA architects. The Edition is also set to come to Shanghai next year, and while it won’t be offering tropical ocean views, the sleek, boutique design promises to bring China’s cosmopolitan hub a new gem for travelers.
8. Ahn Luh Resorts & Residences, Zhujiajiao, Shanghai
A brand launched by the famed Aman founder Adrian Zecha, Ahn Luh Resorts brings the first of its seven properties to China in Zhujiajiao, a quaint canal town outside of Shanghai. The complex allows visitors to relax in contemporary luxury in a city prized for its history and culture, taking architectural cues from the Ming Dynasty to bring guests a courtyard complex that takes them back in time.
9. Wanda Vista, Hefei
In addition to springing on Shanghai a mega-luxurious property, the Dalian Wanda resorts group affirmed its dedication to creating a sprawling tourism empire across China, marking its 100th hotel opening in four years with a five-star Vista launch in Hefei. The hotel is joined by a four-star Realm and several other properties in the Wanda portfolio to serve tourists heading to its Hefei theme and movie park. Wanda’s theme park launch speed has been contributing vastly to the expectation that China’s theme park industry will be worth US$12 billion in sales in four years, surpassing that of the United States.
10. Shanghai Disney Resort
With the “Magic Kingdom” and “Sorcerer” suites, the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is just one attraction in Disney’s newest theme park in Asia. The park has been the subject of countless headlines over the summer that not only celebrate its opening, but highlight the competition with Dalian Wanda. Wanda says it will open 15 to 20 theme parks across China to overtake Disney, but so far, the latter seems to be a huge success with the China market.