Luxury Hotels Close In On China's Second-Tier Hotspots

    Now that first-tier locales are inundated with luxury hotel choices, the world's top companies are moving into smaller cities that have big demand for five-star accommodations.
    Proposal Rendering of a Tea Room for IHG's Hualuxe Hotels. (IHG)
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Travel

    A rendering of a tea room planned for InterContinental's Chinese-branded Hualuxe hotel line. (Kokai Studios)

    Looking to attract China’s wealthy travelers for both business and pleasure, five-star hotels are opening at an exponential rate across China’s second- and third-tier cities as luxury hoteliers rush to establish themselves beyond Shanghai and Beijing. The next five years hold a staggering number of five-star openings across the country, and many have opened their doors this year or will do so in the next few months. Below, Jing Daily has compiled a list of the main second- and third-tier cities for 2013 luxury hotel openings in this highly competitive market.


    2013 has brought significant hotel interests to Shenyang. As a major business and industrial center for northern China, a bevy of five-star luxury hotel brands are rushing in to establish themselves. Last January, French luxury hotelier Sofitel made its foray into Shenyang’s luxury hotel market when it rebranded the original Sheraton Lido in central Shenyang. In July, China’s Dalian Wanda Group established its own five-star hotel presence in the form of a new luxury hotel franchise called Wanda Vista, along with a private executive club.

    Also opening a Shenyang location this summer was Hong Kong hotelier Shangri-La, which entered the growing city in August with an imperial palace-themed hotel featuring a marble inlaid lobby, luxurious spa amenities, and a rooftop tennis court.

    Continuing the rush of luxury hotels to Shenyang, there are also new locations from Grand Hyatt and China’s New World Expo group. Since July, Grand Hyatt’s luxury hotel has offered four different restaurants and 10 multi-purpose meeting spaces with hopes of becoming the city's premier host for business functions. Also moving into place to attract the influx of large-scale business functions in the city is the Shenyang New World Expo. Currently under construction, the 25,000 square-meter exhibition venue will be accompanied by a five-star luxury hotel that is supposed to open by the end of the year.

    A Deluxe Room at Shangri-La's Shenyang hotel. (Shangri-La)


    The capital of Sichuan, Chengdu is regarded as a booming financial town and technology center of China. One of China’s fastest growing second-tier cities, Chengdu also attracts tourism from all over the mainland due to its concentration of giant pandas and rich history of Chinese tea culture. Today, Chengdu is also home to the world’s largest man-made structure, the immense New Century Global Center, which is large enough to fit three Pentagons inside its vast area.

    Several major five-star hotels designed to entice China’s new upscale travelers have opened in the city or are scheduled for later this year. This month saw the opening of a Ritz-Carlton location that claims unrivaled views, high-end takes on local Sichuan cuisine, and a trendy upscale club incorporating a 360-degree fireplace.

    Another major opening in Chengdu scheduled for the third quarter of 2013 is InterContinental’s surreal undertaking: a Mediterranean-style beach resort, nesting in the world’s largest indoor sea, housed inside the enormous Century Global Center. The hotel and attached art center incorporate designs by famed architect Zaha Hadid, and of course, going for that extra mile, the hotel’s premises also incorporate a computer-controlled fountain that produces a synchronized “water ballet.” If that's not enough, other hotels are eyeing the city, which will be seeing a Mandarin Oriental in 2013.

    The New Century Global Center in Chengdu. (Business Destinations)


    A 30-minute high-speed train ride from Beijing, port town Tianjin attracts many Chinese travelers. A strategic business center, Tianjin is also frequently visited by tourists who come to see the post-colonial European villas that pepper the city. Currently, many five-star hotels have already established themselves; however, Ritz-Carlton hopes to make a splash with a location that opened earlier this month. Featuring a 435-square-meter presidential suite and a car elevator that transports vehicles directly to its ballroom, Ritz-Carlton Tianjin hopes to compete with the nearby St. Regis for guests.

    HervéHumler, President and COO of Ritz-Carlton, made the company’s intentions clear concerning China’s new luxury travelers, stating in the press release for the hotel, “The opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Tianjin in one of China’s most strategically important cities reflects our desire to meet the growing Chinese appetite for luxury experiences. Tianjin represents a major gateway opportunity that will accelerate the recognition of our service commitment to excellence by Chinese guests.” In addition, Dalian Wanda opened the Wanda Vista Tianjin this September, which will offer easy access to the Tianjin Wanda Center. These locations will have more competition in the future, as Shangri-La has a location planned for the fourth quarter of 2014.

    A room in the Ritz-Carlton Tianjin. (Ritz-Carlton)


    This year’s five-star hotel boom brings the first ever luxury hotel to popular tourist destination Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. Designed to be in architectural harmony with Confucian principles, Shangri-La’s hotel is looking to position itself as a luxury destination for China’s more philosophical wealthy travelers. Having opened in August, the hotel is within walking distance from many major attractions related to China’s great thinker as Shangri-La hopes to capitalize on the deep historical presence of the town.

    The Confucian principle inspired lobby of the Shangri-La in Qufu. (Shangri La)


    Close to Taiwan, Xiamen is a well-developed second-tier city of southeast China. With a scenic countryside nearby, Xiamen is a metropolis and university town that houses a few industrial zones along with several major international conference and exhibition centers.

    Later this year, the city will see an opening by InterContinental Hotel Group’s (IHG) Hualuxe, a Chinese-branded hotel that meets international five-star standards. In response to the growing demand for five-star accommodations among China’s wealthy travelers, IHG has determined to open Hualuxe five-star hotels across the country. With four hotels signed for later this year and 19 in the pipeline, IHG is looking to become a significant player in China’s current luxury hotel boom. For future openings, Shangri-La will be arriving in the city in 2015.

    A rendering of an InterContinental Hualuxe hotel. (Kokai Studios)


    A popular tourist destination for the mainland, Hainan’s Sanya is frequented by all types of Chinese travelers, and the resort town’s Haitang Bay has become one of China’s most popular luxury vacation spots. Boasting the cleanest air in China, Sanya’s reputation as the “Hawaii of East Asia” has already lured many luxury travelers, and with them, five-star hoteliers. Arriving this November, Westin hopes to make an imprint on the beach town with a new luxury resort featuring three fine dining restaurants and a spacious, chandeliered grand ballroom. The area is expected to see many more developments in the future, such as an Atlantis resort planned for 2016.

    The Westin Sanya Haitang Bay. (Westin)


    A popular weekend getaway destination for Shanghai residents, Huzhou is home to what may be this year's most stunning hotel architecture project in China, Sheraton’s Huzhou Hot Springs Resort. The provocative building has been likened to a horseshoe or doughnut. However, its designers, hailing from the trendy Beijing architect studio MAD, claim that their design is inspired by traditional Chinese bridges. Offering world-class accommodations and a variety of restaurants, the $1.5 billion project opening this December is geared to be a tremendous draw for the second-tier city.

    The Sheraton Huzhou Hot Springs Resort. (Dezeen)


    Luxury hotels and resorts alike established themselves in Chongqing in 2013. Known as one of the fastest growing metropolises in the world, Chongqing, although a second-tier city in China, already has a larger population than Iran or Peru. Hyatt, Kempinski, and Hilton's Doubletree had openings in the city this year, and Shangri-La is still developing its ongoing project to occupy the top 28 floors of a multi-purpose business complex in the middle of Chongqing’s financial district. Patrick Ritter, the general manager of Kempinski's new hotel in the city, stated that “The current inventory of five-star hotels and the growth and new developments in this sector show how apparent demand is.” For more nature-oriented visitors, a new Banyan Tree resort opened in the foothills of Jinyun Mountain Natural Reserve outside the city. The growth is only set to continue in the coming years: Mandarin OrientalRosewood, and Meliá are among the global brands with new locations slated for the city.

    Kempinski Hotel Chongqing had its soft opening in November 2012, and received the award for "The Best New Opening Hotel 2013" from The China Hotel New Vision Peak. (Kempinski)


    Just north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen is fairly popular with Chinese tourists because of its many theme parks, beaches, and botanical gardens. In 1979, Shenzhen’s economy was bolstered by a free-trade zone initiative that allowed for rapid and significant foreign investment, causing the city to quickly grow into one of China’s main business hubs.

    In September, Four Seasons opened a new hotel to capitalize on the desire for luxury accommodations in the futuristic and booming town. Featuring all the common five-star hotel amenities, Shenzhen’s Four Seasons differentiates itself through its striking design motif of auspicious clouds throughout the building. In the same month, Raffles announced the planned opening of a new location in the city in 2018.

    The Four Seasons Shenzhen's FOO Restaurant. (Four Seasons)


    A major business center of eastern China, Qingdao has the cleanest air and highest per-capita GDP, so it’s no wonder that it is often seen as one of China’s most livable cities. A dynamic mix of architecture styles, Qingdao is also full of German buildings from a previous German occupation during World War I.

    Continuing its rush to open five-star hotels across China’s second-tier cities, Starwood has a Westin slated to open in the middle of Qingdao’s financial district on December 1, which will have the highest club lounge in the city.

    The planned Westin Qingdao. (Starwood)

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