Shangri-La, Aman, Banyan Tree and Mandarin Oriental are all Asian brands that have successfully established themselves internationally. Thus far, however, no brands from the Chinese mainland have achieved this level of recognition. But this might be about to change. New and ambitious Chinese luxury brands are filling the gaps in the guest experience sought by the ever-growing segment of Chinese travellers – and they have their sights set beyond the country’s borders.
Beijing Tourism Group launched its luxury hotel chain with this outpost in 2015 near Beijing’s Art Zone 798. The 438 guest rooms with king-size beds, walk-in wardrobes and marble bathrooms take their design cues from Ming-dynasty philosopher Wen Zhenheng who proclaimed the perfect bedroom ‘must balance harmony and simplicity’. Contemporary Chinese art curated by iconoclastic artist Zeng Fanzhi hang on the walls. The brand was developed in conjunction with Kempinski Hotels, creating an East-West alliance that is likely to come in handy as the nascent brand realises plans to bring its made-in-China concept – complete with Chinese restaurants and tea pavilions – to London, Paris and beyond. nuohotel.com
China’s dominant domestic hotel management company, Wanda owns 84 hotels and resorts under four distinct brands, covering the country from Beijing to Sanya to Urumqi. Indigenous touches are ubiquitous, from the cheongsam worn by female staff to complimentary tea ceremonies and cultural performances. The ultra luxurious Wanda Reign on the Bund, for instance, opened last year with numerous art deco design features, reflecting Shanghai’s architectural tradition. Local cuisine is also a hallmark across the brands, with an emphasis on traditional regional dishes and seasonal menus. On track to hit the 100-hotel mark in the next few years, the group plans to take its Wanda Vista brand abroad, first to London, followed by Madrid, Sydney, Chicago and Los Angeles, along with, we expect, its Chinese aesthetic. wandahotels.com
Sitting at the luxury end of the spectrum, this upstart brand created by UK-based InterContinental Hotel Group is focused on the local, China experience. This starts with the amenities that go into each of their hotels. Think tea room instead of bar; local cuisine rather than fine dining; foot massage studios over spas. In 2015, Hualuxe launched its first hotel, the 281-room Hualuxe Nanchang High Tech Zone, located in Jiangxi Province city’s tallest tower. The decision to open in Nanchang – notably outside of China’s international gateways – reflects a broader strategy of the group: to build hotels in 100 cities across the country in 20 years, with a particular focus on the second- and third-tier. ihgplc.com
It’s not just big chains emerging from China. Ahn Luh is looking to bring a touch of Chinese hospitality to the realm of sexy urban resorts. The brand was created by Duan Qiang, co-founder and chairman of Beijing Tourism Group, and Adrian Zecha, the visionary behind Amanresorts and GHM hotels – and you can tell, with a heavy focus on contemporary architecture and design. Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao, the brand’s first resort which opened in 2016, is located an hour’s drive from Shanghai in an ancient water town, and features a meticulously restored 600-year-old Ming courthouse as a lobby and a Qing-dynasty opera theatre as the resort’s core. Subtle shades of peach, jade and imperial yellow warm the 35 contemporary villas, some with outdoor plunge pools. Next up for the emerging boutique brand are openings in Shaoxing, Beijing and Hangzhou. ahnluh.com