Five-star living: business and leisure travellers can choose from a wide range of high-end hotels
Great accommodation is abundant, from Le Meridien Xiamen, the Marco Polo Xiamen, to the Pan Pacific Xiamen
With 19 five-star hotels sprinkled across Xiamen and at least a score more on the way, this compact subtropical destination offers a broad range of upscale hotels catering to business and leisure travellers.
While the number of annual guests edged up in the past year and luxury hotels did better than most, tourism revenue has been flat recently, according to local tourism officials. The majority of Xiamen’s international tourists come from Asia, but Europe and the Americas are both well represented.
David Katemopoulos, Le Meridien Xiamen general manager, hosts a significant number of business guests at his hotel. “We get more of a corporate crowd, primarily business, although meetings and incentive travel is a bit of a long haul for European guests,” he says.
Business developments in the city are driving changes in guest composition. “In the past two years I see more Europeans coming because of the free-trade zone; there’s more European investment and more guests,” says Millie Tsui, general manager of the Marco Polo Xiamen. “Before, we saw more Americans, now the Europeans are a growing percentage of our guests.”
The Pan Pacific Xiamen draws a significant number of guests from within Asia because of its regional reputation, according to Nelson Tan, general manager of the Pan Pacific Xiamen. “We have Japanese, Taiwanese and a lot of Southeast Asian guests because of our brand,” he says.
Tan adds that the city also draws a large share of leisure tourists from within China, particularly in winter and during national holidays. “Xiamen is seasonal and … because of its reputation, we are seeing more domestic travellers, who are especially interested in places like Gulangyu and Xiamen University,” he notes.
Domestic and international guests alike are becoming ever more discerning, and particularly so in a market awash with upscale hotels eager to compete by upgrading their services and amenities.
Le Meridien Xiamen benefits from its bucolic perch atop a wooded hill and provides a “Meridien Discovery map that includes a trail walk through Xianyue Mountain with a vegetarian restaurant and two temples at the end of the trail”, Katemopoulos says. The Discovery programme actively encourages guests to explore the city, mapping out the “best shasha noodles, where to go for bookstores, cafés, small tucked-away places you wouldn’t normally discover”, he says. The hotel is also offering guests a 50 per cent discount for lunch and dinner buffets.
The Marco Polo has long enjoyed a strong reputation in the city. “We were the second international hotel in Fujian and this is our 20th year in Xiamen, people know the name,” Tsui says. But the hotel is not resting on its laurels. It is upping its game, whether it’s a new bar counter in the lobby, new furniture and carpets for the rooms, better Wi-fi or updated restaurants with new menus and trendy themes. Its central location and lake and park views keep it a popular destination.
At the Pan Pacific Xiamen, Tan also refuses to stand still, with plans under way to renovate rooms and restaurants while unveiling new upgrades such as complimentary Fujian teas that give guests a true taste of local culture. The hotel also boasts a 500-square-metre ballroom, five restaurants and dozens of suites.
All the city’s hotels are also working hard to respond to changing customer habits. “Guests used to use travel agents and corporate bookers; over time reservations have switched from fax to email to online to mobile,” Tan says. Guests are also booking hotels later than ever before. “With mobile phones, they can book when they arrive in the airport so booking time is much shorter.”
Guests who book via travel agents are also on the decline because of the rise of high-speed rail servicing the region.
Structural changes in Xiamen’s travel industry are also expected to boost the local market, with companies like Xiamen Airlines adding more direct and non-stop flights to international locations such as Melbourne and Vancouver. “New flights will take a bit of time to build awareness. In four to six months we should see more arrivals from the markets served by Xiamen Airlines,” Katemopoulos predicts.
Xiamen is more than ready for a boost in guest numbers with more than 20 new premium hotels set to debut in the city over the next few years. “There may be a certain time where the hotels will suffer but the market will catch up,” Tsui says. “There’s a bright future for the hotel industry in Xiamen.”