Magnets for Corporate Travelers

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts scores big points with newest properties in Shanghai and Tokyo

By: Anne Z. Cooke

When the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts opened its first hotel in Shanghai, China, a year ago, international travel was at a standstill and a new hotel seemed like a risky venture.

But the Four Seasons had done its homework. Shanghai, China’s boomtown, had millions of investment dollars pouring in annually so the hotel was an immediate success.

In October, Four Seasons opened its second hotel in Tokyo, where the economy is as flat as Shanghai’s is vigorous. And yet the Four Seasons Marunouchi is also holding its own.

The reason? Both hotels boast prime downtown locations convenient for business travelers. Both are near first-class sightseeing and shopping for leisure visitors. Both have easy access to subway, train and taxi transportation. And both employ a multi-lingual staff trained to assist all types of travelers.

Yet the two hotels are utterly different.

The 439-room Four Seasons Shanghai, one of Four Seasons’s largest properties, was designed to please and to impress Chinese sensibilities.

Contemporary art is highlighted in a décor of light, warm colors and materials ranging from the coffee-colored marble of the floors to the alabaster used in the lighting fixtures. Individual restaurants serve Cantonese, Italian, Japanese and America food, while the Studio Café serves a lavish buffet featuring all four cuisines.

A half-dozen private dining rooms are used for Chinese entertaining, traditionally done on a large scale and in a hotel.

Conference facilities also are extensive, with a 7,400-square-foot ballroom, meeting rooms, a mezzanine for vendor displays and session breaks and 24-hour business centers on the 5th and the 37th floors.

The hotel is in the heart of the Puxi business district, a 10-minute walk from the Shanghai Museum, upscale shopping on Nanjing Road and downscale bargains at shops and stalls on Huaihai Road.

When I wasn’t sightseeing, I made good use of the Olympic-size swimming pool, had a massage and jogged on a fitness center treadmill.

Four Seasons’s usual in-room toys electronic safe, satellite television, dataport connections, voicemail, minibar with coffeemaker and an enormous bathtub make in-room time enjoyable.

The rack rate on a standard double room is $208 on weeknights, $188 on Fridays and Saturdays. But two guests who walked in off the street told me that they got their first night’s stay for $100.

As for the Four Seasons Marunouchi, this hotel is the group’s tiniest, a 57-room boutique property decorated in ultra-minimalist style. Subtly blending traditional Japanese forms with modern textures, it relies on colors ranging from silver to black, and champagne to mahogany.

The hotel is located in the new, glass-clad Pacific Century Place building, where it shares space with businesses such as the accounting giant Deloite & Touche. The building is the centerpiece of Tokyo’s re-emerging Marunouchi business district, centrally located near the Imperial Palace with its medieval moat, the bustling Ginza shopping district, the Otemachi banking district and Tokyo Station, the hub for Tokyo’s many subway and train lines.

In fact, many guests who arrived during my hosted stay came by train from Narita International Airport to Tokyo Station, a hundred yards from the hotel entrance. Taxi fares from the airport can cost as much as $200 so knowledgeable guests chose the train.

The hotel’s public areas reception and concierge desks, lounge, bar, business center, Ekki restaurant, storefront fitness center and Japanese onsen baths are on the seventh floor.

The rooms are on floors 3 to 6. Seductively attractive, they feature marvelous beds, big bathrooms, electrically operated drapes and blinds, CD and DVD players and wall-mounted 42-inch plasma screen televisions.

But is the package worth $450 a night? The hotel reports an average occupancy rate of 60 percent just four months after opening, so it seems to be.