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Rooms with a majestic view

By Liu Weifeng ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-06-18 15:05:34

Rooms with a majestic view

St. Regis has five properties in China and will soon open another one in Lijiang. Provided to China Daily

Yunnan's scenic Lijiang offers five-star hotels, privately owned villas and corporate jets. Liu Weifeng takes a closer look.

With their rising affluence, many Chinese clients now have sophisticated demands for luxury property, a top-notch environment and quality services, said senior hotel and banking executives.

Qian Jin, president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Greater China, told China Daily now is a good time for luxury hotel brands to enter China, even though economic forecasts predict slower growth.

The pace is still robust compared with other economies, he said.

The US-based hotel group now leads the Chinese market in the number of international hotels in operation. Its eight brands under the Starwood umbrella have more than 100 hotels in operation in China, with about 90 more in the pipeline.

China will be the second largest tourism economy after the United States by 2013, and the number of Chinese traveling overseas will hit 100 million by 2020, statistics showed.

"People prefer to choose and stay at the hotel with the brand they know," says Qian, explaining the fast expansion strategy Starwood takes in China.

St. Regis has 28 properties worldwide, with five in China. It is expected that another "a couple of" St. Regis hotels will open in the next few years in China, with two or three in Sanya.

St. Regis, a century-old luxury brand from New York under Starwood management, recently drew the attention of the industry by taking one big stride in Yunnan province.

It will soon open a property in Lijiang. The development will include a five-star hotel and privately owned villas under the management of St. Regis. "This is the very first time in China that the St. Regis brand has villa residences for sale," says Qian.

Jinlin Group, owner of the complex, recently bought two 12-seat Cessna Citation Sovereign business jets to make the property more attractive and stylish.

The area's high altitude and inconvenient time slots for air routes have hindered the arrival of business elites, who would instead select Sanya or other beach resorts in Southeast Asia.

"When top brands meet each other, magic occurs," says Pan Xinmin, director of the Kunming Branch, China Merchants Bank.

Statistics show China had 590,000 wealthy people with a personal fortune over 10 million yuan ($1.57 million) last year. A survey of the group found that 44 percent of respondents consider health and a leisure lifestyle their top priorities, followed by education for their children and investments.

"It's a perfect match between rare resources, the natural environment, unique local culture and a refined management team," Pan said of the Lijiang St. Regis project.

Some envision that the development's snow-capped views and private jets could be upscale business tools providing a unique environment for negotiations.

Building culture-themed hotels at peaceful resorts has become trendy in China. A Marriott hotel on the top of Mount Huangshan has been a hit with wealthy clients seeking unusual locales and property investment opportunities.

Representatives from Mount E'mei in Sichuan province are now in talks with Starwood to re-brand the current local hotel chain and bring St. Regis to the mountain resort.

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