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A (Socialist Market Economy) Commune, and Other Hotels

Ten or fifteen years ago, there were not a lot of (attractive) options for the business traveler to China. The Great Wall Sheraton and the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing may conjure up fond memories for some, while the Hilton in Shanghai and the White Swan in Guangzhou are also famous survivors.

Now, of course the selection of hotels is almost overwhelming – and there are new ones being added all the time. This is good in terms of choice of location (traffic problems make positioning a very practical concern), budget (the whole range), and last-minute planning (in Shanghai it has not been unknown for everywhere to be full).

China Hospitality News notes a report from Lodging Econometrics, which says hotel development activity in China is now second only to that in the US:

A lot of this demand is being fueled by inbound tourists – and it is predicted that China will be the fourth largest tourist destination in the world by the end of the year- but the local tourist market is also growing strongly. Reported pipeline activity includes:

One of the latest, greatest places to appear is the Commune on the Great Wall. The project, near Badaling, was developed in 2002 by husband and wife team Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi who later teamed up with the Kempinski. The FT notes that it is the first luxury resort to be built along the Great Wall, and that it has “visionary design”. The Commune is now a destination for well-heeled travelers, but is also a growing favorite for corporate events (including for Audi, BMW, McKinsey, Motorola, Timberland etc.). At around US$340 a night it is not cheap by Chinese standards (though pretty reasonable for a Londoner!) but, like the towering Grand Hyatt in Shanghai, seems that it might be worth a visit just for the experience.

Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to trek out to the Great Wall during a week’s business trip. So, where to stay? Trip Advisor’s [1]top 10 recommendations for Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong are:

I would add the Hilton to the Beijing list as it has had a great refurbishment, and is very convenient for the airport. The Shanghai Hilton also deserves a mention – while it is a bit rough around the edges these days, the location and the buzz in the lobby are hard to beat.

While many business budgets will stretch to nice 4-5 star hotels (usually from around US$100 to US$300 a night), many do not. So domestic travelers, and under-funded international visitors are looking with interest at the budget sector – with prices from around US$20 to US$40 a night.

He Hongzhang set up Top Star Hotel Management Group – and its “fotels” (feeling hotels – 17 with projects to date) in September 2005, and has (according to people’s Daily) been actively shaking up the budget end of the market.

The article notes budget examples such as Jinnjiang Inn (139 sites), Home Inn (163, but aiming for over 250 by 2008) and Motel 168, as well as imports such as Super 8 (from the US with 96 sites – 26 already open) and Ibis (from Accor of France, who have 3 sites open, and plan for 50 by 2010).

Whether at the top or the bottom of the market, with the Olympics coming up in Beijing, and World Expo in Shanghai, there is plenty of demand for rooms. Better book early.

In the meantime, for anyone who has tied themselves to the same hotel for more years than they care to remember, it may be worth trying out some of the new offerings.

Note: China Business Services is co-hosting a major travel conference in London on 6 November. See here for more details. [2]

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