Luxurious blend of old and new

Updated: 2012-09-29 07:41

By Liu Weifeng (China Daily)

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 Luxurious blend of old and new

A guestroom of NUO, the first Chinese international luxury hotel brand. Photos provided to China Daily

Hotel profile | Beijing

New NUO hotel chain designed with Chinese DNA and international standards. Liu Weifeng reports.

Duan Qiang, a legendary figure in China's tourism industry, has long had the dream of creating a luxury hotel with both Chinese DNA and international luxury standards. That vision has come true with the founding of the 2 billion yuan ($307 million) NUO Hotel chain.

The 56-year-old industry leader in charge of 35 billion yuan in assets at the State-owned Beijing Tourism Group admits that "international (hotel) brands overwhelmed us" during the three decades of China's opening-up and reform.

"But we are now standing at a crossroads," said Duan, who also served as deputy mayor of Beijing in the 1990s.

"It's the right timing to create a Chinese luxury brand, which is demanded by both Chinese consumers and the world market."

BTG, Duan and partner Kempinski Hotels from Germany mulled the idea, design, positioning and strategy of the brand for five years before officially it was launched in late September.

In its initial stage, NUO will target Chinese consumers. "It was created in China using international standards by Chinese and for Chinese," he said.

The development plan calls for following the considered pace of the Kempinski chain, which doesn't spread in an explosive way like some other brands.

"Luxury indicates a limited edition," said Michael Henssler, president of Kempinski China and managing director of Key International Hotels Management Co Ltd. To him, luxury doesn't mean money, but the way of spending it.

With the emergence of increasing numbers of affluent local consumers, the pursuit for a high-end lifestyle is a value among various groups of today's Chinese.

Hotels are a way to gauge the development of a country's service industry and a test of the quality of its human resources, Duan said.

"In 1982, when the Jianguo Hotel began to accommodate foreign guests, the room rate was $40 a day - a sky-high price for the Chinese of the time," he said, noting the price was set by the government after China's very first joint venture hotel was approved by 12 vice-premiers in 1978.

BTG now owns a range of well-known tourism brands, including the Quanjude roast duck chain, lamb hotpot restaurants Donglaishun, the Lufthansa and Xidan shopping malls, and the Jianguo Hotel and Home Inn chains.

Hospitality and the pursuit aesthetics in daily life were traits of the ancient Chinese, including during the Ming Dynasty, the inspiration for the cultural theme and design of the NUO Hotel in Beijing.

An enthusiast of music, reading and travel, Duan has been to more than 70 countries, visiting CD stores and grave sites of philosophers, musicians and poets. Shopping malls are never on his visit list.

"I'm an fan of travel and I guess I'm the only chairman who doesn't read company's financial report. No computer, no driving and no English as well," he said in Chinese.

Right now, he is enjoying the reading a translation of Man Booker Prize winning novel The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes.

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