Chinese-Focused Hualuxe Hotels And Resorts Expected In Late 2013 Or Early 2014
A roundup of this weekend’s news in the hospitality industry, from InterContinental’s new hotel aimed squarely at Chinese tourists to Small Luxury Hotels of the World opening an office in Shanghai and the upcoming grand opening of the Sands Cotai Central in Macau.
InterContinental Hotels Group Announces New Chinese-Focused Hotel, Hualuxe
This weekend, global hotelier InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) announced plans to launch a new hotel line aimed at the emerging Chinese tourist demographic in late 2013 or early 2014. To be called “Hualuxe Hotels & Resorts,” the new hotel concept is maximized for localization, with features including a tea house rather than a traditional bar, restaurants that offer local cuisine rather than fine dining, and foot massage studios rather than a spa. According to IHG, the majority of Hualuxe properties will be built in second- and third-tier cities, along with Beijing and Shanghai, and will be located in more than 100 cities throughout China within the next 15-20 years.
As Richard Solomons, IHG’s chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal, Hualuxe is a combination of the Chinese word “hua” (华) for majestic and English’s “luxe” to connote luxury. Whether the name ultimately falls afoul of Beijing’s sensitivity toward the word “luxury” will remain to be seen.
Already, China Daily notes, the hotel group has confirmed 12 contracts in spots including Zhangjiajie and Changsha in Hunan province and Lijiang in Yunnan for Hualuxe properties. As Zhao Huanyan, an analyst with Hotelsolution Consulting based in Shenzhen, said, “It’s not strange at all for IHG to prefer second- and third-tier city over first tier cities…About 65 percent of IHG’s hotel rooms in China are scattered over second- and third-tier cities, if we look at the bigger picture here.”
Increasing saturation in the first-tier hotel market is another major factor in Hualuxe’s second- and third-tier focus. As Keith Barr, chief executive officer of IHG Greater China, put it, “IHG looked at 230 cities in China and narrowed them down to choose locations for Hualuxe. Beijing for example already has six Crowne Plazas and it would be difficult for us to have another six Hualuxe there when we have other cities that are becoming more urbanized.”
Apparently, IHG is also interested in taking Hualuxe to the outbound Chinese tourist market as well. As Barr said this weekend, “We’ve already talked to international companies in major markets such as the Maldives and we were impressed with their interest. Who are the biggest inbound tourists to the Maldives? The Chinese. We’re looking at spots with lots of travelers from China such as Bangkok and Tokyo.”
Small Luxury Hotels Of The World To Open Shanghai Office
The hotel group Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), which opened four properties in China this year in Yunnan, Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing, is set to increase its presence in the country with a representative office in Shanghai. Set to open in the second quarter of this year, the office will support the company’s activities and expansion in China. Recently, SLH has been far more focused on the growing China hospitality market, appointing Weber Shandwick as its PR agency in the country and taking part in this year’s International Luxury Travel Market Asia event in Shanghai and Beijing’s China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market conference. The company also plans to roll out a number of roadshows this year in cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.
As to Brandon Chan, SLH director of sales, Asia Pacific, said this week, the majority of guests staying at SLH hotels in China come from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. On the other side of the coin, the group’s Chinese guests generally stay at SLH hotels in European hotspots like Paris, Rome, Milan and London, with many going on multi-city trips. Said Chan, “China is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for us here in Asia,” adding that he expects SLH bookings for the Asia-Pacific region to grow by 10-15 percent in 2012.
As Chan noted, China’s growing affluent middle class is venturing further afield and spending more on high-end hotels and products, adding, “More Chinese, especially those in the 30 to 40 age band, are venturing outside Asia, and are exploring exotic destinations such as the Maldives.”
Sands Cotai Central Gets Opening Date
Today, Sands China Ltd., the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands Corp., announced that the newest addition to the company’s Cotai Strip development in Macau — the Sands Cotai Central — will open on Wednesday, April 11. The first phase of the property launch will include more than 600 rooms and suites under the Conrad hotel brand and more than 1,200 Holiday Inn rooms, as well as plenty of meeting, convention and retail space and dining venues. The opening of the Cotai Central will mark more than US$8 billion that Sands China has invested in the Cotai Strip to date in its attempt to fashion the area into a Las Vegas Strip-style destination for entertainment, tourism and gaming.
As Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd. chairman Sheldon G. Adelson said this week, “There were few believers in my vision for the Cotai Strip when the site was basically underwater. With the completion of Sands Cotai Central, that same spot will be home to thousands of hotel rooms, millions of square feet of retail, meeting and convention space, dozens of restaurants and so many other attractions.” Added Adelson, “The opening of Sands Cotai Central is a game changer for the future of Macau as a leisure, entertainment and business location.”
Joining the Conrad and Holiday Inn rooms and suites set to open in April, the Sands Cotai Central will eventually have around 4,000 rooms from the Sheraton brand. These three hotels, when complete, will be the largest individual locations for each brand in the world.
According to a company release, the inauguration festivities on April 11 will include “noteworthy cultural exchanges and a series of entertainment events.”