Xiamen’s luxury hotels expand services, upgrade menus and draw MICE with new tours and facilities
Properties strive for uniqueness as competition mounts in booming tourism and meetings sectors
The seemingly unstoppable growth in Xiamen’s upscale hotel market continues apace, with the city now counting 21 five-star hotels and more on the way in the second half of the year, according to local tourism bureau figures.
“I remember when I was here from 2004 to 2008, Xiamen did not have that many international chain hotels,” recalls Richard Hng, general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel Xiamen. Times have changed and hotel guests in Xiamen have never had a wider selection of premium options.
Occupancy rates remain stable even though increased competition means that companies are juggling market share and pricing constraints. “Occupancy or average daily rates, sometimes you have to strike a balance,” says Millie Tsui, general manager of the Marco Polo Xiamen.
Hoteliers are also looking to boost revenue by servicing customers in more ways than simply providing an amazing place to stay, although that remains a primary focus. “The direction we’re looking at is a focus on food and beverage sales in addition to our rooms business,” Hng says. That means feeding the needs of both in-house guests and local office workers, he explains.
As Xiamen is a holiday destination and a bustling economic centre, the typical client for upscale hotels is a fairly even mix of meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions (MICE) business and leisure travellers. “MICE is about 35 per cent, corporate is about 30 per cent and the remainder is leisure groups,” notes David Katemopoulos, general manager of Le Meridien Xiamen.
Tsui foresees an increase in leisure tourism because “Xiamen has become one of the most famous resort areas in China”. She adds that the city’s hotel rates offer a better proposition than other domestic holiday destinations. “Hainan can be triple Xiamen’s room rates, and even during public holidays, our rates[are] more reasonable.”
Competition within the city remains fierce, with each hotel doing its best to distinguish itself from the pack. At Le Meridien, Katemopoulos promotes the in-hotel art, including custom-made and Xiamen-specific statuary in the lobby by the Chinese art collective X+Q Art. He also extols unique services such at the hotel’s ladies’ amenities programme, in which regular female travellers are provided “in-room amenities such as Evian vapour spray, yoga mats and hair bands, the little things that you may forget to pack in your travel bag”, Katemopoulos says. In addition to the hotel restaurants, there’s also a Chef’s Table that can be “set up in places like the courtyard in front of the waterfall or on our villa balconies for exclusive and intimate meals”.
The Marco Polo is distinguished by being “close to [Bailuzhou Lake] and in the centre of the city as well as close to Coffee Street and Bar Street,” Tsui says. “With the white egret protection zone and Xiamen’s hills nearby, people like to stay with us for the surrounding environment,” she adds. Of course, guests can also avail themselves of the numerous hotel amenities, including one of Xiamen’s finest Japanese restaurants and a shopping arcade.
The Wyndham Grand Xiamen has the city’s only heated outdoor infinity pool, says David Hu, acting general manager of Wyndham Grand Xiamen. All the hotel’s rooms feature floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, while guests have access to nearly 2,000 square metres of banquet and meeting facilities, he adds. Hu also extols the hotel’s location, which is next to the Xiamen International Conference and Exhibition Centre in the city’s newly-developing eastern business district.
The Shangri-La Hotel Xiamen stands out because a full 70 per cent of its rooms face the sea, Hng says. The hotel is also creating a nearby 7,200-square-metre park that will be operated by the hotel but open to the public.
“We see our hotel as a city resort that will attract both corporate and retail guests because it is near the convention centre, in Xiamen’s new business district and next to the ocean,” he says. The hotel also has the city’s only “cargo lift that can fit a car, which means that companies like auto exhibitors can display a vehicle right in the third-floor ballroom”.
Most hotels in the city are benefiting from Xiamen’s growing international reputation because of events such as the Amoy Art Fair and the CIFIT investment and trade fair. “Business developments in the city are also driving changes in guest composition,” Hu notes. “Europeans are a growing percentage of our guests”, he adds.
“The BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] Summit in September will bring even more international attention and awareness to Xiamen,” Katemopoulos predicts. He sees a range of factors drawing new guests, including additional international air routes and the possibility that Xiamen will host the annual Belt and Road summit in the future.