There are five-star hotels, and then there are “seven-star hotels.” At least, that’s what media outlets are calling Wanda’s 51st hotel, located on Shanghai’s Bund, which made its grand debut to the public late last month. It’s real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin’s first hotel in Shanghai, and third ultra-luxury hotel overall. The hotel brand, Wanda Reign, is at the topmost level of the four tiers of hotels in Wanda’s portfolio and has outposts in Chengdu and Wuhan.
Like in the case of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Wanda says it never claimed the seven-star title, but that the media may have interpreted it that way because it puts the Wanda Reign brand a tier above the five-star Wanda Vista. The South China Morning Post called Wanda Reign’s first hotel in Wuhan, which opened in 2014, the first-ever seven-star hotel in China, but back in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, the dragon-shaped Pangu 7 Star Hotel Beijing in Olympic Village opened to the public and considered itself to be the most luxurious hotel in the capital at that time. It’s clear Wanda is aiming higher, hoping to appeal to a growing number of mainland elites as well as wealthy international clientele.
“Shanghai is an international metropolis that attracts global attention,” Boris Blobel, Wanda Hotels & Resorts Managing Director of East China and General Manager of Wanda Reign on the Bund said in a statement. “People here are keen on enjoying life and are open to new things. It provides a favorable environment for Wanda to enter the market.”
These “new things” include 193 guest rooms that are divided into two categories: “trendy with high energy” and “noble, luxurious, and distinguished.” Those that choose to take the trendy route will be met with contemporary, Art Deco-inspired design, while the second group offers “mahogany burl wood, magnolia embroideries, and Art Deco elements to create a distinct sense of place.” No matter which room one chooses, every guest will be fitted with their own butler, an iPad-operated control system for the room, and a digital door peephole that allows guests to detect who is at the door by tuning in on their television.
For extra comfort, Wanda offers up a bed they dub the “Bed of Reign,” that features a handmade Talalay latex mattress that forms to the body and New Zealand-sourced wool bedding. The floor and towel rack in the bathroom are heated, and suites boast a massage chair.
Fine dining spans four restaurants, including MARC, which is led by Michelin-starred French chef Marc Meneau of L’Espérance and another called RIVER DRUNK, which features Huaiyang cuisine from Southern China with six themed private dining rooms. Those wanting to take luxurious service to the next level can join Club Reign, which gives members access to private facilities in the hotel, including a spa, KTV, and a wine and cigar bar.
While the hotel incorporates international high-end brands like L’Occitane and Hermès into its amenities, the hospitality group no doubt wants to appeal to a growing interest in locally sourced luxury. Laurence Xu, who was the first Chinese designer to join Paris Haute Couture Week in July 2013, designed the uniforms for the staff. Chinese contemporary art is also abundant around the hotel, featuring the work of painter Shi Qi, sculptor Huang Laiduo, and more to come.
Wanda’s art-heavy focus is not uncommon among other Chinese-owned ultra-luxury hotels that have opened in the past year. NUO hotel in Beijing, which opened in 2015, collaborated with renowned Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi to fill its rooms, and the brand new CHAO boutique hotel in the capital’s Sanlitun district has entire rooms solely designed to host gallery shows.
Currently, Wanda is beginning to make a name for itself outside of China, with its quickly expanding Wanda Vista hotel and residences project in Chicago, but there’s no word yet as to whether the billionaire plans to take its Wanda Reign brand abroad in the same way NUO is seeking international expansion. For now, those so-called seven stars are reserved for the mainland only.