Glit­ter­ing W Shang­hai elec­tri­fies city’s sky­line

New star of ul­tra-pre­mium level ho­tels carv­ing out a rich niche of cus­tomers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HOSPITALITY - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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

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