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Cross-Straits charm spreads to hospitality

By Matthew Fulco in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2012-11-17 07:57

Taiwan has established a regional reputation for high-quality products, gracious service and cultural prowess, leading to a boom in its tourism industry in recent years. While international hotel brands have a strong presence on the island, independently-owned properties are prevalent, offering a more intimate local experience.

Les Suites Orient, which has two Taipei hotels and one property on the Bund in Shanghai, is an ideal place to experience Taiwan's charms on both sides of the Straits. While it as billed as "boutique," Les Suites defies easy categorization, with nearly 170 rooms and five-star amenities like a fitness center. It serves terrific Taiwan food in its restaurants, including sterling variations on Taipei's famed beef noodles.

Discretion underlines the Les Suites experience from the onset. In both Taipei and Shanghai, the hotel entrances lie on a main thoroughfare removed from the street. "It is imperative to respect the privacy of guests," says general manager John Liu, who founded Les Suites in Taipei in 1999.

Guestrooms are decked in a soft color palette with wooden floors exuding a sense of home - more stylish apartment than hotel. Understatement prevails. You won't find anything gimmicky here, no "daring" artwork or space-age furniture.

Liu has put Taiwan's acclaimed high-tech prowess to practical use at Les Suites. One of the hotel's utilitarian smartphones, manufactured by the Taiwan mobile giant HTC, is provided to every guestroom. Dubbed "Smart-Life", the phone can help guests save on international roaming charges during their stay, as all incoming calls are free. An incoming call to a guest's room that is not answered after five rings is automatically transferred to the Smart-Life phone.

In Taipei, Les Suites has introduced an enhanced version of the Smart-Life phone that will be available in Shanghai soon, Liu says.

"It serves as an all-in-one mobile phone, hotel room key and electronic transportation card," he says, adding that credit placed on the phone can also be used for shopping in select Taipei stores. As a transportation card, it works on both Taipei's subway and buses, but not for the city's taxis.

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