Schrager makes his debut in China
He is already considered a septuagenarian, but prolific hotelier and entrepreneur Ian Schrager is nevertheless still breaking new boundaries, as evidenced by the opening of The Sanya Edition in China earlier this month.
The luxury establishment, situated near the shores of Sanya, Hainan province, is the 70-year-old American’s first hotel in China and was created in partnership with hospitality giant Marriott International.
True to Schrager’s renowned style of luxury, the new Edition features a private ocean within that allows guests to enjoy a range of water sports without having to leave the premises. This unique feature is said to be the first of its kind in China.
“China is the future. Building a hotel in China now is no longer about occupying a prime location or setting the right price point. It’s about creating a unique experience,” said Schrager in a recent interview in Shanghai. “Edition is a luxury brand in addition to lots of luxury brands. The hotel I want to create is the one that even if you take away the name, you will still know it’s Edition.”
Situated along the city’s Haitang Bay, The Sanya Edition features 512 well-appointed rooms, five restaurants and an equal number of swimming pools.
Schrager has since 2007 been working with Marriott on the Edition series of hotels around the world. The Sanya Edition is the brand’s fourth outlet globally, after London, Miami and New York. A total of 16 Edition hotels are in the pipeline, with the one in Shanghai scheduled to open in 2017. Following the merger of Marriott and Starwood earlier this year, Edition is the only brand that is being run independently by its own head office in New York.
Well-known for his efforts in pioneering the luxury and boutique hotel industry, Schrager has throughout the past five decades been revolutionizing the hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, retail and residential industries.
He first shot to fame in the 1970s when he became the cofounder of New York nightclub Studio 54. Schrager later reinvented himself to become the hotelier who created Morgans, widely acknowledged as the very first boutique hotel in the world.
“I want to do lots and lots of hotels in China. Sanya is about to explode, not only for the traditional market, but also for the younger market,” said Schrager, about his decision to pick Sanya as the location for the first Edition hotel in China.
Major hotel brands have in the past few years been setting up shop in Sanya, a coastal location that is dubbed as the “Hawaii of the East”. For instance, the Haitang Bay stretch that The Sanya Edition is located on is also home to other major hotel brands such as Westin and InterContinental.
Just blocks away from the Edition, the Sanya Atlantis resort, a landmark project backed by the local government and an 11-billion yuan investment by homegrown conglomerate Fosun Group, has just completed construction. The 226-meter-high building will have 1,314 hotel rooms and house China’s largest natural saltwater aquarium that will feature 60,000 sea creatures.
“It’s not about how many hotels there are in the market at the moment. Take the iPhone for example — when it first came out, everyone already had a phone. It’s not like Apple invented a phone,” said Schrager.
“The product is what gives a brand meaning. Most of the time, when I walk into a luxury hotel, I don’t know what to expect. There is no unique originality.”
This emphasis on being original has led Schrager to think of concepts that will specifically suit the local culture. Chinese parents, unlike their American counterparts, have yet to become accustomed to leaving their kids at daycare centers in hotels, and Schrager decided to tackle this by introducing facilities in the hotel such as an amusement park where families can play bumper cars.
Other amenities include art galleries, mahjong rooms and a slew of retail places that cater to tech-savvy Chinese.
“Sometimes I feel we are more like a technology or entertainment company than a hotel,” joked Schrager, who added that his team had worked hard to source state-of-art gadgets that would appeal to the locals.
“I have been creating small hotels that have no more than 100 rooms, massive ones with thousands of rooms, as well as resorts. What really matters is the atmosphere, the magic that happens inside the space, and how people bond and spend time together. What I’m offering is a stage for them to have a good time.”
American hotelier Ian Schrager is eager to build many more hotels in China in the coming years.