Prodigy, Naked Stables, and Le Passage Reviving Moganshan
While more Chinese travelers are spending their vacation time abroad, some think there is plenty of opportunity waiting to be discovered right at home. A few hours from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai lies the bamboo-covered mountains of Moganshan (莫干山), long known as a popular summer retreat and playground for the Shanghainese elite.
After largely fading into the background for decades, the allure of Moganshan has been resurrected by a handful of tourism and hospitality entrepreneurs who believe in bringing back the mountain’s golden days. In recent years, these pioneers have been hard at work transforming, and building anew, sustainable luxury resorts aimed at smog-choked urban Chinese vacationers, as well as foreigners looking for an alternative to the usual tourist traps.
Calling this new breed of Chinese travel a blend of eco-tourism and agritourism, the last few years have seen eco-resorts such as Prodigy Moganshan and Naked Stables Private Reserve pop up on the Moganshan landscape. Joining them late last year, native Frenchman Christophe Peres and his wife Pauline Lee opened the doors of their 40-room luxury resort hotel Le Passage Mohkan Shan, deeming it “China’s first French Luxury House Hotel.” Quaintly nestled alongside an organic tea plantation, Le Passage is blending Chinese antiquity with French tones, preserving historical-style architecture while designing the interiors to reflect comfortable modernity.
For Peres and Lee, Le Passage is more than just another luxury hotel jumping onto the China bandwagon, with the duo trying to cultivate an experience-based retreat while embodying the spirit of an international sojourn in provincial France. As more of China’s culturally chic gradually jump on the sustainable, eco-friendly bandwagon, bespoke experiences that offer a chance to get “back to nature” may just make eco-resorts the next booming trend in hospitality.
According to Lee, while eco-tourism (visiting relatively undisturbed and remote locations with a low impact and small-scale alternative to mass tourism) and agritourism (visiting working farms, ranches, and plantations) in Europe and the States have grown rapidly over the past few years, “Le Passage Mohkan Shan is a pioneer in the eco-tourism and agritourism market in China.” The resort offers plenty of activities for guests, from tea-picking sojourns and mountain bike rides to quiet time by the pool.
Since the grand opening of Le Passage, Lee and Peres have already seen early signs of success, with the resort catching on with a more sophisticated, well-traveled local clientele. As Peres told Jing Daily, “They love having a retreat such as Le Passage to escape to rather than having to go to all the way to France for the weekend.”
One interesting aspect of the Moganshan eco-resort scene is the sense of community. For their part, Peres and Lee have “implemented sustainable practices that will hopefully encourage young Moganshan residents to stay in the area and grow the economy and also employ older Moganshan residents with fair wages.” This business creed is also reflected in their preservation of traditional architecture reinforced by local, sustainable materials and craftsmanship. As an added treat for guests, Peres and Lee are also distilling their own organic pear brandy — “Poire Pauline” — sourced from local pear farmers.
While the revival of Moganshan is still in its infancy, those who are interested in preparing the land to become China’s next “staycation” destination see plenty of potential for success. Targeting the Chinese elite — some of whom may already consider trips to France très passé — is a smart forward-facing tactic to capture a burgeoning market and become the next trending leisure activity. Even in China, where bigger is generally seen as better among hotel guests, luxury shoppers and auto buyers alike, the future of travel may be eco-friendly, small-scale, and niche.
Le Passage Mokhan Shan
Deqin County – Moganshan Town, Ziling Village, China 313204
Rooms from 1,500-4,200 yuan (US$241-$676) per night