Con­sumer De­mand

China’s boom­ing mid­dle class is driv­ing growth in lux­u­ri­ous new places to stay and play in Bei­jing

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Mark Gra­ham

Lux­u­ri­ous new places to stay and play in Bei­jing

The China anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign may have seen an end to os­ten­ta­tious or­der­ing of aus­pi­ciously priced bot­tles of $8,888 Lafite, and grand ban­quets with end­less cour­ses of ex­otic fare, but for peo­ple at the slightly less­rar­efied end of the Bei­jing win­ing and din­ing spec­trum, the choices are widen­ing by the day.

The en­gine driv­ing the city’s restau­rant and ho­tel growth is the Chinese mid­dle class – the af­flu­ent, white-col­lar seg­ment of so­ci­ety that has trav­eled over­seas, sam­pled fine-din­ing res­tau­rants and stayed in posh ho­tels.Visit any restau­rant in Bei­jing these days and most of the peo­ple pe­rus­ing the sushi menu or study­ing the wine list will be lo­cals rather than ex­pats or for­eign vis­i­tors on ex­pense ac­counts.

Like­wise, the main rev­enue driver of the high-end ho­tel trade is, in­creas­ingly, ex­ec­u­tives on busi­ness trips to the cap­i­tal from Shang­hai, Shen­zhen or Shenyang.

“We have seen the un­leash­ing of the Chinese con­sumer,”says Michael Faulkner, gen­eral man­ager of lux­ury ho­tel East Bei­jing, who has lived in the city for seven years.“Trav­el­ing over­seas has opened their eyes to new food styles and de­sign, and you can see trends emerg­ing from that such as eat­ing or­ganic pro­duce. The dy­namic changes are very fast and you have to be flex­i­ble in terms of menu items and ser­vice style.”

All of this is great news for the es­ti­mated four mil­lion an­nual over­seas vis­i­tors to Bei­jing, who can pick from an ev­er­in­creas­ing choice of up­mar­ket places to stay and in­de­pen­dent res­tau­rants as­pir­ing to Lon­don, Paris and NewYork stan­dards.

Ho­tels

The most sig­nif­i­cant re­cent open­ing has been the 283-room Rose­wood Bei­jing, a down­town prop­erty that ar­rived in Oc­to­ber 2014, earn­ing in­stant gold-medal sta­tus from trav­el­ers. The lo­ca­tion helps – di­rectly op­po­site the CCTV Tower and a short stroll from the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict – as do the gen­er­ous rooms – over 500 square feet for en­try-level ac­com­mo­da­tions. The wide range of en­tic­ing res­tau­rants in­clude the rus­tic Coun­try Kitchen, with its gourmet up­dat­ing of tra­di­tional peas­ant dishes and fruit­wood-roasted Pek­ing duck.

It will be a hard act to fol­low for a num­ber of new ho­tels – and revamped old-timers – that are set to join the fray in the next year or so. The first of these was the 303-room In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Bei­jing San­l­i­tun, which opened in Au­gust. The ho­tel boasts spiffy lo­ca­tion in San­l­i­tun, a buzzing dis­trict that’s home to scores of bars, res­tau­rants and bou­tiques.

In-house the options in­clude tapas, Chinese and Ja­panese eater­ies and a bar spe­cial­iz­ing in whisky and beer. The ho­tel oc­cu­pies the first 23 floors of a 38-story tower. The only other five-star res­i­dence of note in the im­me­di­ate area is the trendy 99-room Op­po­site House, a fa­vorite of the fash­ion and de­sign crowd.

Art is one of the dom­i­nant themes of Nuo, opened in June last year, the first ho­tel from a Chinese state-run group with global as­pi­ra­tions. That grand am­bi­tion is re­flected in the ca­pa­cious lobby area, with its over­sized Ming dy­nasty-in­spired porce­lain jars. The 438-room ho­tel has its own art gallery and is within easy reach of the 798 Art Zone, now one of the city’s top ten at­trac­tions.

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