Rooms with a queue

Booming city attracts guests who want top-class accommodation.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 10:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 10:14am

Wuhan's extraordinary growth in the past decade has yielded a surge in hotel guests and the rise of an elite group of hotels to service the expanding upscale market. The city's tourism bureau estimates that last year saw more than 3 million room nights and that local hotels topped 2 billion yuan (HK$2.44 billion) in revenue.

The city's typical hotel guest has changed over the past decade. John Beresford, general manager of the Marco Polo Hotel, says the hotel industry used to be leisure driven, with Yangtze River cruises popular.

Today's guests are more likely to visit in connection with corporate or government-related business, given that "the central government has made Wuhan a growth point with increased investment", according to Eddy Tao, general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel, Wuhan.

Top-tier hotels are still in relatively limited supply, with less than 10 five-star hotels for a population in excess of 10 million in the greater metropolitan area. The Westin Wuhan Wuchang differentiates itself as a lifestyle hotel, stressing items like hi-tech massage chairs and premium bedding.

The Marco Polo Wuhan emphasises its premium location next to key government offices and its suite of 12 serviced apartments.

For the Renaissance, location is key, with the hotel located a quick trip away from the Han Street shopping development and the Happy Valley Wuhan theme park. The Shangri-La Hotel has been servicing the city's top tier for more than a decade, with a prime location in the city's financial district.

"Chengdu and Chongqing are our closest competitors, they grew faster although we are catching up in the meeting market," Beresford says. For all those cities, China's Go West policy has been a boon, especially in connection with the relatively cheap land and labour available in central and western China, says Ugur Lee Kanbur, general manager of the Westin Wuhan Wuchang.

"Wuhan's competition is Wuhan itself," Lai says, because "the city lacks a major conference centre and has limited direct flight access".

The city's boom is drawing greater numbers of international guests and improved direct flights to and from international locales. Kanbur notes that direct flights to Bangkok, Paris and Singapore have begun.

The city has not been immune to the economic challenges buffeting China and the global economy, but the impact has been muted by the government push to designate Wuhan a national central city.