Western Hotels Invade China

Times:

THE Chinese property and travel tycoon Deng Hong likes to leave his personal stamp on his ventures.

Take his new InterContinental hotel in Chengdu, in the heart of China’s Sichuan province. Deng’s watercolours, the results of an earlier artistic career, adorn the walls.

He designed the old-style teahouse on the hotel’s fifth floor, where guests can sip jasmine tea and savour dim sum. And parked outside the front entrance are a Lamborghini, a Bentley, a Maybach and a Rolls-Royce – from his personal collection of luxury cars.

Ten days ago, amid indoor fireworks and displays by dancing girls, hundreds of guests tucked into catfish stew, double-boiled shark’s fin and other local specialities at a 12-course banquet to mark the opening of the 560-room hotel, part of a huge new leisure and residential development.

The appetite for new hotels in China is in keeping with the country’s rapid economic development and urbanisation. IHG, the British company behind InterContinental and Holiday Inn, expects to open a new hotel there every week this year, for example, and the country has become a key battleground for all its main rivals.

The expansion is not confined to the main urban hubs of Shanghai and Beijing, but is also happening in second-tier cities, such as Chengdu.

Deng, who controls and chairs the ChengduExhibition & Travel Group (CET), is laying the groundwork for what he expects to be a big influx of overseas visitors to a city that boasts a population of 10m.

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