Beijing has seen a surge in the number of five-star luxury hotels coming online leading up to and following the 2008 Olympics. While the number of overseas visitors arriving in the capital is expected to keep pace, hotels must be able to offer something unique to grab potential guests’ attention in a crowded market.
The 434-room Pullman Beijing South opened on October 8, the hotel brand’s third China property overall and first in the capital. Pullman has already begun carving out its place.
One distinct advantage Pullman says it offers is its unique location. While a lion’s share of the Beijing’s hotel development has taken place in the city center and central business district (CBD), the Pullman Beijing South is situated south of the city center, near the Fifth Ring Road inside the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area (BDA). The Pullman is approximately 40 minutes drive from Beijing’s Capital International Airport and 30 minutes from the CBD.
Being the only international hotel inside the BDA offers Pullman a number of opportunities. There are more than 2,500 companies, including multinational corporations (MNCs) Coca-Cola, Nokia, DHL, Chrysler and General Electric, located within minutes of the hotel. In addition, the Beijing government continues to encourage both international and domestic companies to set up operations in the BDA through preferential tax and land policies.
Pullman Beijing South’s general manager Raetus Balzer says his hotel’s niche will largely be providing services for these neighboring corporate guests. Many MNCs, including the ones in the BDA will likely need to tighten their belts given the uneasy global economic climate. However, Pullman may be situated better than most five-star hotels.
"We are the only international hotel in this area," Balzer said. "We are offering competitive prices and packages in view of our unique location. If this is where your company is working, we offer a significant cost savings."
And while international MNCs with large corporate accounts are a part of Pullman’s client mix, domestic corporate clients also have a presence. Balzer says many domestic small and medium-sized companies are keen to provide international-level accommodation for visiting guests and VIPs.
In addition to providing five-star hotel rooms for corporate guests to the BDA, Pullman Beijing South also sees its success depend upon attracting business for its meeting facilities. "We have to distinguish our hotel as a MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) hotel with good meeting facilities and offer our services to companies with business operations around here." Balzer said.
Business meetings and events are an increasingly sought-after market segment among five-star hotels. MICE visitors on average spend at least three times as much as ordinary tourists, according to a recent report by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization. In addition, MICE events represent predictable, repeat business – a major advantage in an industry known for major occupancy fluctuations.
Pullman Beijing South offers extensive meeting facilities – eight meeting room ranging in size from its 680-square-meter ballroom to 30sqm private meeting rooms. Each function room has free Wi-Fi internet access, state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, flat-screen televisions and a business center. On the 18th floor, there are executive floor rooms with executive lounges overlooking the BDA area.
Beyond these standard meeting room amenities, however, Balzer stresses that flexibility and an ability to accommodate specific requirements are vital to ensuring MICE business.
"We offer our facilities with little restriction," he said. "If there is a trade luncheon for 50 people, I don’t mind if they set up their products outside the hotel. Most of the companies here have training facilities themselves, but sometimes they need to go a hotel that can provide food and beverages."
To that end, Pullman Beijing South has five places to eat – a French Cafe, Mistral; a Cantonese restaurant d’Ming; Hot Pot Thyme; Japanese teppanyaki, Slice and Dice; Da Capo Italian Restaurant; and a lobby lounge and bar, Cajole – in addition to its 24-hour room service and catering services. Balzer notes that the hotel’s teppanyaki restaurant has proved popular among Japanese and Korean visitors, while Cantonese food is the cuisine of choice for the wedding banquets the hotel has put on thus far.
The area’s large swath of residential apartments is also "a very good captive market for weddings," Balzer said. He notes that local couples planning weddings downtown quickly encounter problems with parking and higher costs. Having a luxury hotel closer to home has more advantages than just the logistical.
"Our hotel has an impressive entrance, so they can display their wedding limousines."