Updated: 2012-08-04 07:46
By Matthew Fulco (China Daily)
An evening view of the Westin Bund Center Shanghai. Photos provided to China Daily
Hotel Profile | Shanghai
The Westin Bund Center marks 10 years at the forefront of Shanghai's hospitality industry. Matthew Fulco reports.
Shanghai's historic Bund waterfront has returned to form in the past decade, emerging as a top destination for tourists and hip locals alike. Cutting a graceful arc along the Huangpu River, its austere colonial-era buildings brim with glamorous sky bars, restaurants and boutiques.
Europe's top fashion houses use prime Bund retail space to showcase their wares to China's wealthy. It makes for priceless branding, even if sales remain stronger in tax-free Hong Kong.
Yet, while the illustrious Bund thrives today, a decade ago it laid barren amidst a less-developed Shanghai.
The Westin was the first international hotel brand to capitalize on the historic area's reemergence. In October 2002, it moved into a new 26-story building within walking distance of the celebrated waterfront. The eminent American architect John Portman designed the property, fitting its rooftop with an iconic luminescent crown.
The landmark 570-room property soon established itself as one of the city's premier hotels, creating a guest experience both luxurious and salutary.
General manager Andreas Trauttmansdorff, a 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry, describes a stay at the Westin as "heavenly."
Guest rooms, he says, act as "therapeutic retreats where guests can rebound from the rigors of the road."
"Every traveler who stays with us should leave feeling better than when he or she arrived," Trauttmansdorff says.
Certainly, a trip to the Westin's Banyan Tree Spa should help that cause. The Singapore-based Banyan Tree is known for its traditional Eastern healing therapies - both non-clinical and holistic - that "celebrate the human touch and use of natural herbs and spices."
The Westin outlet of the Banyan Tree adds a Chinese dimension to the experience with treatments based on the five traditional Chinese elements of earth, metal, water, wood and fire incorporating more than 70 herbs and other natural ingredients. Each of the 13 treatment rooms is equipped with a rain mist shower and steam facilities, bathtub with a waterfall feature and private changing area.
The Westin also offers a comprehensive range of athletic facilities, including a 20-meter heated indoor swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center and guestrooms designed for working out. For guests who enjoy jogging, the hotel provides a runner's concierge familiar with the Bund area to accompany them for "a culture run." Acting as a guide during the run, the concierge explains the history of the neighborhood and tells stories along the way.
While the Westin has enjoyed considerable success in Shanghai, an increasingly crowded market necessitates change, says Trauttmansdorff.
"The overall cake is getting larger, but the individual slices are shrinking in size," he says. "You have to differentiate to remain competitive."
Over the next six months, the hotel will refurbish its lobby and add two new junior ballrooms to the third floor.
Additionally, Wi-Fi services will be enhanced, Trauttmansdorff says. The Westin will upgrade the cabling in all of its guestrooms and equip each of them with a dedicated transmitter and receiver. Bandwidth will increase, creating "the fastest possible connectivity in China."
The Westin will also launch new personalized weekend packages aimed at domestic guests, many who visit from the nearby provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
"Weekend guests have different expectations than business travelers," Trauttmansdorff says. "Since they are paying for the trip themselves, they want a more personalized experience."
Under the new program, the hotel will help guests organize customized itineraries of their leisure activities during their stay, he adds.
Trauttmansdorff recommends weekend travelers take advantage of the Westin's Sunday brunch, which he says is one of Shanghai's best. The brunch features delicacies such as foie gras, beef carpaccio and handmade Italian pastas along with a free flow of fine wines. A 12-piece string orchestra and acrobats entertain guests throughout the meal.