Deluxe hotel beckons on Shanghai's Bund in downturn

Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:45am EDT
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Luxury may be taboo these days, but it's a choice The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd group wants travelers to have, despite the downturn, when it opens a Peninsula hotel in Shanghai this year.

The Peninsula Shanghai's 3 billion yuan ($439 million) complex includes a 235-room deluxe hotel, a shopping arcade, a residential tower -- and is the first building to rise on the city's historic Bund waterfront in 60 years.

The hotel, due to open in October, is the ninth property in the portfolio of a group renowned for its bespoke fleet of Rolls-Royce limousines and unabashed dedication to the good life: the Peninsula has a team of engineers that develop guest-friendly gadgets and tests the features in each room before it is built.

General Manager Paul Tchen said that while the financial crisis would probably keep high-end leisure and business travelers away for now, the downturn would not last forever, and the hotel was built with the future in mind.

"Unfortunately, in today's economy, luxury hotels are not very fashionable," Tchen told Reuters.

"But we open hotels for the next generation, we are cautious about what we invest in, and during these times, we can stand the pain more than other companies," he said during a visit to Singapore to promote the new hotel.

Asia's multi-billion dollar tourism business has been hit hard by the shortage of well-heeled tourists and corporate travelers due to the slowdown, with hotel room rates falling this year for the first time in years and airlines suffering.

Average hotel room revenues across Asia and Australia fell by a third in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, according to Deloitte, which also said that occupancy levels across the region dropped by 15 percent. In Shanghai, hotel room revenues have fallen by almost 40 percent.   Continued...