Schrager makes his de­but in China

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

CHINA DAILY PRO­VIDED TO

Amer­i­can hote­lier Ian Schrager is ea­ger to build many more ho­tels in China in the com­ing years.

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