Chengdu, the economic hub of southwest China, has rallied with a strong economy since the tragic earthquake that struck Sichuan four years ago. The hotel boom continues and, as at the end of last year, there were about 16,000 four- and five-star bedrooms available in the city. According to the latest CB Richard Ellis report, international hotel brands will add thousands of rooms to the city's supply by 2015. William Hall, general manager of Crowne Plaza Chengdu City Centre, says the new hotels will bring a complete change to the hotel scene and supply in the city. To keep up with the competition, the hotel's owners have made consistent investments, including a new gym, spa, a major extension to its Chinese restaurant and many back-of-house projects last year. This year, the hotel has undertaken a full refurbishment of its ballroom, all meeting rooms and its business centre. A refurbishment of 10 floors will be completed this summer. Hall expects the refurbishment will give the hotel a distinct advantage over older international hotels. 'I am confident we can improve on last year, which was our best for eight years, but the growth will be steady and not a large leap.' Since its soft opening in 2007, the 593-room Shangri-La Hotel Chengdu has been perceived as the premium luxury hotel in the city and has set new levels in terms of room occupancy, average room rates and revenue. Kent Zhu, group director of sales and marketing, attributes the steady growth to the hotel's meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) business from 2008 to 2011. He believes the Chengdu government's commitment to developing the city as a key MICE destination will spur this segment into becoming a primary source of demand over the next few years. 'There are more than 10 five-star hotels in Chengdu. Room occupancy continues to show healthy growth, but room rates have grown at a slower pace. Although a number of international brand hotels are scheduled to open this year and next, we believe the anticipated growth in arrivals, year on year, will provide sufficient business for all,' Zhu says. As the first international upscale hotel in north Chengdu, Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Garden, which opened last September, is facing both opportunities and challenges. 'We are filling the market in north Chengdu and have launched a specific new concept - city resort - to gain more market share. We offer guests unique touches that they cannot experience in downtown hotels,' says general manager Ivy Yu. 'Not only international five-star hotels but local budget hotels are joining in the fierce competition. We benefit from tourism and the MICE industry as plenty of the major annual grand gala events have settled down in Chengdu. This brings opportunities and speeds up the hotel industry. All the hotels drive the development of tourism and the MICE industry as well.' Located near the renowned Panda Base, the hotel offers panda-themed services. It also features the 3,000-square-metre Paradise Garden with the only wedding church - Garden Chapel - and the only splash outdoor pool with a sand beach in town.