[photopress:rafflesbeijing.jpg,full,alignright]The point is made that China’s luxury hotel market is growing — in part due to increasing affluence in the country and, in part, to an influx of high-end corporate travellers. Raffles Hotels and Resorts recently opened its flagship property in China and is already planning for more such hotels.
Raffles Beijing Hotel was built in the 1900s at the crossroads of Chang An Avenue and the district of Wangfujing, Which means it is in the heart of the business and commercial districts and a few minutes from the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Silk Market. It is a 15-minute walk from Beijing railway station and less than five minutes from Wangfujing subway station. Pretty central.
It has 171 guest rooms and suites. Some of them are referred to as ‘the most expansive and decadent in Beijing’. Not sure about that word ‘decadent.’ Possibly something more refined is meant although arguing about a single word is a bit damn silly. The description generally sounds like ultimate luxury. Which is, I think, the intent. On the other hand, you could not possibly get away with using the term ‘decadent’ in reference to Sir Stamford Raffles after whom the hotel is named.
Raffles was born on the ship Ann off the coast of Jamaica. His father, Captain Benjamin Raffles, was involved in the slave trade in the Caribbean, and died suddenly when Raffles was fourteen. Our hero Stamford Raffles started working as a clerk in London for the British East India Company, the quasi-government trading company that shaped many of Britain’s overseas conquests.
In 1805 he was sent to what is now Penang in the country of Malaysia, then called Prince of Wales Island, starting a long association with southeast Asia.
[photopress:StamfordRaffles.jpg,full,alignright]In 1817 he was knighted by the prince regent. He came back to the island of Sumatra in 1818, and on 29 January 1819 he established a free-trade post at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula — a site that became Singapore. By the time he left the country in 1823, the city was on its way to becoming the largest port in the world.
The Raffles Hotel in Singapore was founded in 1887 by the amazing Armenian brothers Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak Sarkies who transformed the hotel scene of Asia. Initially the hotel was a ten roomed bungalow but it grew and grew. In the nineteen seventies the hotel was a wreck run by a manager who was as mad as a cut snake. In 1987 the Singapore government quite rightly declared in a national monument and it was intelligently and sensitively restored.
So the Raffles in Beijing has a long and exotic history to live up to. The property in China is owned by government-linked Beijing Tourism Group, but managed by Raffles.
Michael Ong, Corporate Director, Business Development, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, said, ‘I think before Raffles was opened there was only a St Regis. So this is the second luxury hotel into the market. After this, a couple more will open. So right now I think we are competing directly with St Regis and we are doing well.’
The company says there are also plenty of investment opportunities outside the Chinese capital.
Thomas Storey, Executive Vice-President, Development, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, said, ‘There are five or six key markets already in China that are already supporting luxury hotels and we think represent that opportunity in the future…. So we see those markets as key opportunities today. A market like Tianjin is more of an emerging market (and) probably will have luxury hotels within the next five to 10 years, but there are none existing today.
‘With the growth of the Chinese consumer and the affluence that’s being built in the region overall, we think both for inbound and outbound travelers, that there will be an increasing number of cities that probably support a luxury hotel going forwards.’
The one thing that is probably missing is a tiger under the billiard table in the billiard room. They had one in the Raffles in Singapore. A headmaster borrowed a rifle and shot it. Then went back to playing whist. Damn good. And damn right, too.
Source: Channel News Asia