As the largest industrial city in northeast China, Shenyang is visited predominately by business travellers; and with the continued growth of foreign investment and the number of foreign visitors set to increase, hotels and serviced apartments catering to this market are preparing for more guests.
Unlike some Chinese cities with a long history of opening up to the outside world, Shenyang only had its first international hotel when the Sheraton Shenyang Lido Hotel opened in April 2002. So providing the facilities and services that can meet the needs and expectations of international business travellers has become a key challenge.
'As the first international hotel in the city, the hotel has pioneered a number of services,' says Casey Lee, director and general manager of Shenyang Lido Business Company, owner of Sheraton Shenyang Lido Hotel,
'It was the first hotel in northeast China to introduce butler service, and the first to operate an international all-day dining restaurant with an open kitchen. These have won the hotel a number of awards and accolades from senior government officials, trade organisations and industry experts.'
At the Crowne Plaza Shenyang Parkview, more than 70 per cent of guests visit Shenyang for business, mostly related to automotive and heavy industries. The key objective of the hotel is to ensure guests are able to conduct their business easily and provide a comfortable environment for them to do business, according to a hotel spokesperson.
The Somerset Shenyang Heping, a serviced apartment, also sees some 90 per cent of its customers coming from overseas and many are affiliated with local industries.
'Our core business is long-term guests who are working in Shenyang for more than one year, including expatriates from aviation, the automobile industry and diplomats from consulate offices in the city.
Some of them are here on long-term projects for a few months and some have contracts for as long as three years,' says Roy Zhou of the Somerset Shenyang Heping.
Finding staff who have the experience, or the culture of working at international hotels remains the perennial challenge.
'Manpower is always a major issue in the service industry, and we are always in search for good people,' says Zhou.
With the opening of more international hotels in Shenyang, 'it is unavoidable', says the spokesperson at the Crowne Plaza. 'Our hotel is continuing its efforts to recruit and develop talent.'
And the shortage doesn't look like improving any time soon.
'With the rapid economic growth and development of the country, many skills are becoming scarce and the hospitality industry is no exception,' says Lee.
'We therefore very much focus on making sure that we are able to attract talent for development,' he says. 'In Shenyang, we may have a slight advantage because the city has a large number of universities.'