Business travellers going into Hong Kong's hinterland will find five-star accommodations scarcer than up north, but the landscape is about to change rapidly When China first opened its doors to foreign tourists in the early 1980s, it was in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) that the country's first officially sanctioned tourist hotels opened. Three of them appeared in quick succession in Guangzhou: The White Swan in 1983, the China Hotel in 1984 and the Garden Hotel in 1985. Two decades on, those venerable giants - each has around 1,000 rooms - are still going strong, but with the knowledge that a shake-up is fast approaching. For business travellers in the PRD cannot help but be struck by the fact that although the region has long been China's richest and most productive, the big name hotel chains have made limited inroads here - unlike in Beijing and Shanghai. That's all set to change with the arrival of a slew of international brand names. In Guangzhou, they will include the Landmark, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Westin, Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La and Novotel. Some of these chains also have plans for new hotels in Shenzhen and Dongguan. A taste of what is to come can be found just across the border with Hong Kong: the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen, which could give many premier hotels in Beijing and Shanghai a run for their money. Designed in a 'Venetian leisure theme' the high service standards and tranquil ambiance combined with first-rate business facilities are increasingly drawing executive travellers. The hotel is located next to Shenzhen's theme park attractions, but it's also just minutes from the Futian Centre and the Hi-Tech Zone, 20 minutes from Shekou Harbour Passenger Terminal and 25 minutes away from Lowu Port and Shenzhen International Airport. Travellers who need to be close to the Lowu border crossing usually opt for the Shangri-La Shenzhen, which is just a few minutes walk from the crossing and from Shenzhen Railway Station, where regular train services whisk travellers to Dongguan in around 40 minutes and to Guangzhou in an hour. The Shangri-La arguably has a tighter focus on the needs of the business traveller than any other operation in all of Guangdong, and even offers instant office facilities. Heading into Guangdong's workshop of the world, true executive-class hotels are a rarity in Dongguan. The shining exception is the Sheraton Dongguan in Houjie Town, where an opulent lobby complete with a low-key bar featuring a Filipino band sets the tone. The hotel's convention facilities can seat up to 1,200 people and feature state-of-the-art video-conferencing equipment. Meanwhile, in Zhongshan - long dominated by locally managed 'international' hotels - a new Shangri-La Hotel with a spa and top-notch fitness facilities makes the city a far more attractive business destination. Which brings us back to the big smoke of Guangzhou, where for the moment the White Swan, the China Hotel and the Garden compete for the favour of PRD business travellers. Each has its unique selling point. In the case of the White Swan, a gorgeous garden swimming pool, views of the Pearl River and a tranquil location on Shamian Island ensures a loyal following. For the China Hotel, the high service standards imposed by the Marriot management, along with proximity to the city's old convention facilities are irresistible. And the Garden, with more than 1,000 recently renovated rooms and the city's biggest hotel convention facilities, has a superb location on bustling Huanshi East Rd, close to countless wining and dining establishments.