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Proof is in the Pudong

Post Time:Jul 20,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:430

With the metallic-red China Pavilion at its heart, Pudong stands poised at the vanguard of Shanghai's latest makeover in preparation for the 2010 World Expo.

In this bisected metropolis of steel and glass, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong is tailoring its services to suit the influx of investment and businessmen into the area as it attempts to bond its future to that of Pudong.

"We realize that Shanghai is expanding into a city with a population of 24 million. But this growth is divided into two parts, and you have to be represented on both sides," General Manager Rainer J. Burkle said.

"Numerous corporations have already moved to Pudong, and we have to provide them with facilities on that side (of the river), otherwise we will lose those customers," added Burkle, who also serves as the vice president of the chain's China operations.

No longer regarded as a mere extension of the city, Pudong houses such landmarks as the Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center, the tallest building in Shanghai, as well as Lujiazui Financial District and the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel.

To prepare for the grand opening of the World's Fair next May, Ritz-Carlton will open a new 285-guestroomed hotel in Pudong in April. The new hotel will occupy the top 14 floors of the International Finance Center Tower.

As well as boasting sweeping views of the Bund, it will integrate an art deco style that harks back to 1930's Shanghai to put the city's past and future in balance. Other new facilities will include a 1,000 sq m ballroom that seats more than 700 guests, a sky lobby on the 52nd floor and luxury retail outlets on the podium level.

But the chain's China plans extend way beyond this. It will also add a new hotel in Hong Kong in September next year. Straddling the top of the 118-story International Commerce Center Tower in West Kowloon, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong will rank as the tallest hotel in the world when it is finished.

Bruce J. Himelstein, a senior spokesman for the hotel group, said that Ritz Carlton has not lost its faith in China despite the recent hardships endured by the hospitality industry, as business travelers and leisure tourists continue to rein in their spending.

"We're having a love affair with China," he said. "In the last three years, we've opened five hotels here. We'll also open two more next year."

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has added more than 1,000 luxury rooms to its inventory in China in the past 12 months, with new openings in Guangzhou, Sanya and Shenzhen.

At a time when many hotels are cutting back, the group is intent on growing its footprint in the country to build customer loyalty. This will help compensate for a drop in demand outside China, whilst nurturing future Chinese travelers who will stay loyal when they venture overseas, said Himelstein.

The Ritz-Carlton's luxury arm is also seeing a growth spurt. It is set to open 20 residential developments in the next three years in locations including Chicago, Mexico City and Toronto.

"Because we've been able to transcend the hotel catalogue and move into serviced residences and apartments, I think we're beyond the point where people just see us as a hotel," said Himelstein.

This rational growth strategy puts a strong emphasis on staying sustainable and manageable, he said.

"We're not looking at thousands of hotels, just a handful. The goal is quality. The goal is to be in whatever market makes sense for us," he said.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company currently operates 73 hotels in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

Source: ChinaDailyAuthor: shangyi

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