Among its many distinctions, what tops Chengdu's list is that it's the gateway to south-western China. The city of some 15 million is ranked the fourth most populous in China. Things are looking to get more luxurious as major brands move in for a slice of the city's economic pie.
The Starwood Group's first St Regis marque to open in that part of China is an indication of the ultra-luxury services becoming more common in the Sichuan Province and further west. The group now has six St Regis properties in China with eight more in the pipeline, doubling their brand portfolio in the near future, says Paul James, global brand leader of St Regis, The Luxury Collection, and W Hotels Worldwide.
This is in anticipation of the growing demand for luxury travel in Greater China, and especially in the south-west, where the silicon valley of China is located. It's the era of the "GenLuxury" travel set now, says Mr James, with generations X and Y dominating the luxury travel scene. The new global elite is now averaging 48 years old, 61 per cent male, and 42 per cent second home owners. While luxury travel used to comprise 80 per cent American travellers, it's now only 50 per cent American. "So it's about developing hotels in locations that the GenLuxury set want to go to."
Clearly, south-west China is one such destination - for business as well as leisure, given the tech industry and of course, the pandas, as well as the cuisine, since Chengdu was declared City of Gastronomy by Unesco, the first Asian city to be so-named.
With St Regis, the group brings in this neo-classical, New York mod decor style - an updated version of the swinging 20s and the Great Gatsby. The decor is just that bit glitzy and brash, but with clean lines and modern restraint, and subtle hints of Chengdu and Chinese culture. St Regis Chengdu proudly opened 100 years to the date when the doors of the iconic St Regis New York swung open.
The 279-room hotel, just steps away from Tianfu Square (the Orchard Road of Chengdu) and Chun Xi Road upscale retail area, had its official opening just before Christmas. Catering to travellers who're used to a certain luxury and also to the business community, it has dedicated 1,200 sq m of space to events and meetings as well. What is worth noting are the private dining rooms with a bird's eye view of the city, even if the skies of Chengdu city are perpetually foggy and grey.
The well-sized guestrooms feature every aspect of modern technology - with its automatic activation of room lights and systems when you enter the room, and controls from a touchscreen tablet so that everything can be done without even lifting the phone or moving from where you are seated.
Of the six restaurants and bars, Yan Ting shines with its sophisticated execution of traditional as well as innovative dishes. And in a country where massages are cheap and easy to come by, it's a luxury to treat yourself to a proper western-standard spa with technologies like the relaxation bed, but most of all, with well-trained therapists and quality products.
A slight kink in the legendary St Regis butler service (as an encounter with its packing service showed) is understandable since the hotel has only been open for three months, but this should be quickly rectified so that St Regis Chengdu will be up to speed with the same legacy and branding as its global counterparts.
This article was first published on Jan 3, 2015.
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