The hotel industry in China is absolutely exploding right now. Starwood and IHG are both poised to nearly double their number of hotels in the next 18 months. That's a lot of hotels! But are any of them any good? Do they stack up to the best of the rest of the world? That's what we want to find out. So City Weekend has selected our 25 favorite hotels in China and we're reporting one per issue. The list isn't reader-voted like Conde Nast Travelers, it's not based on reviews like TripAdvisor's. It's based on a lot of conversations we have had, formal and informal, with luxury travel agents, savvy travelers and industry insiders. Next on the list is the The Fairmont Beijing.
Some hotels, especially those without the benefit of powerhouse marketing of big groups like Marriott or Starwood, fly under the radar, underappreciated. The Fairmont Beijing is one of them. This excellent hotel tucked into Beijing’s CBD just doesn’t get enough respect from the tastemakers. So we’re putting it on our Top 25 Hotels list to rectify that.
Real people have not been slow to give the Fairmont Beijing its due. They ranked third on Trip-Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for all of China in 2011. In 2012, they rank number one, ahead of iconic hotels as the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and the Four Seasons Hong Kong. They are clearly doing something very right.
Hotel General Manager James Bevans attributes the hotel’s success to service, plain and simple. “Warm and sincere” is how he describes it. But real experience tells a better story. Like the time in the middle of rainstorm at rush hour when a doorman ran half a mile to get a cab for a guest. Or my own experience when the bar manager dropped what he was doing to help hapless old me get my iPad connected to Wi-Fi. “That’s what we do at the Fairmont Beijing,” Bevans says, “we go the extra mile.”
The Fairmont is a venerable hotel brand that operates iconic properties around the world. The Savoy in London, the Plaza in New York City, Shanghai’s Peace Hotel—all are managed by Fairmont. Interestingly, Fairmont as a group has had to turn on its service to differentiate itself precisely because they operate so many iconic hotels. Existing structures with very strict building codes limit the bells and whistles that new properties can use to draw guests.