Glittering W Shanghai electrifies city’s skyline
New star of ultra-premium level hotels carving out a rich niche of customers
Eight years after the announcement was made that Shanghai would have a W hotel, and three years of delay, W Shanghai – The Bund celebrated its grand opening on Sept 22.
The unveiling literally electrified Shanghai’s already glitzy skyline: on arrival, guests are greeted by neon light installations throughout the hotel’s living room.
The welcome desk in the reception area features a kaleidoscopic fixture and 35 of the rooms are suites, including the Cloud on the Bund, which includes highlights such as an LED wall and a hanging bed.
Executives of the New York-originated hospitality brand — now owned by the world largest hotel group, Marriott International — were relatively modest, calling the timing of the opening “very good”.
“The construction took a very long time, but I think it’s actually very good timing because there are lots of luxury hotels developing in Shanghai,” Anthony Ingham, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide, told China Daily in Shanghai prior to the opening ceremony.
“But W always manages to occupy a space that is distinguished from other luxury brands in the market.”
Christian Humbert, general manager of W Shanghai – The Bund, added that he is more than happy to see more lifestyle and luxury brands coming to the market ahead of W.
“It lifts the general perception of Shanghai and also the (room) rates,” Humbert said.
“The last couple of years in Shanghai has actually seen a rather flat rate of growth, but I believe that if there are some new and phenomenal hotels coming and pushing up the rates, it will raise the entire level of the city.”
For 2017 and next year, Marriott alone will add a St. Regis, Bulgari and an Edition hotel — in collaboration with Ian Schrager, who has been dubbed the king of boutique hotels — to the already crowded hospitality market of Shanghai.
Other brands introduced, or to be introduced to Shanghai in 2017-18, include Cordis by Langham, and Aman Yangyung — a resort on the outskirts of the city.
Discussing the competition, however, Ingham noted that W, created in 1998 as a hospitality market disrupter, would continue to stand alone in the type of experiences it creates, despite the number of new openings in town.
Check-in rates over the past three months since the hotel had its soft opening back Ingham up.
More than 80 percent of the guests who have spent a night at W Shanghai see it as a destination, according to Humbert.
It means they are checking in not because they are looking for a bed to sleep while traveling to the city either for leisure or business, but simply and particularly to spend 3,000 yuan ($460) to have an experience of W.
Many of the guests are Shanghai residents coming for a ‘staycation’ over weekends.
“We expected the business would be good from the beginning, but it’s so good that we felt like working at a train station,” Humbert joked.
Having opened W Ko Samui and W Bangkok, Humbert noted that it usually takes several months for a hotel’s business to pick up, even if it is part of the W family. However, it was amazing how the market in Shanghai reacted, both in terms of room occupancy and other business like F&B, he said.
W Shanghai offers a rich experience, choreographed by London-headquartered GA Design studio, one of the most recognized architecture firms in the hospitality industry that has been behind such iconic hotels as W Taipei, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, and Palace Hotel Tokyo.
There are five restaurants and bars, two swimming pools — one indoor and the other outdoor — and a 2,050-square-meter pillarfree banquet hall that the hotel proudly and jocularly markets as a space that “can accommodate 24 million soup dumplings, one for each resident in Shanghai”.
More than 95 percent of its 374 rooms and suites have majestic views of the city’s Huangpu River, by which the hotel stands.
In continuity with the brand’s modern and plush style, the Shanghai outlet, which Ingham positions as the flagship property for Asia Pacific, is also fused with some playful design twists like the soup-dumpling-andchopstick-shaped cushions in every room.
“Mid-scale hotels are in a price war, but there is another category of hotels including us that is still outnumbered by the demand,” Humbert said.
“Our clientele are the type of people who pay for a new experience, and would definitely not pick another hotel over us simply because it’s 50 yuan cheaper.”
Ingham said he looked at the industry from a global perspective.
“The concentration of luxury hotels per capita in the United States is nearly five times that of China. That means the opportunity for growth in China is still enormous, and we are seeing an incredible speed of growth in the segment,” he said.
He added that there are two types of people who prefer to stay at W: the millennial professionals who are highly educated, well traveled, and affluent for working at big corporates like Apple or Alibaba, and the middleaged, between 40 to 50, who have a millennial mindset, working in creative industries such as advertising, journalism and music, and consciously want to stay in contact with the youth culture.
The core customer for W in China is usually the former category.
“What is unique in China is the size of relatively young new wealth, which is bigger in proportion to our business than in other well-developed markets,” said Ingham.
From top: W Shanghai – The Bund, a long-anticipated hotel, opens its doors to guests as of Sept 22. Anthony Ingham, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide, celebrates the new hotel’s opening ceremony.
Anthony Ingham, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide