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From the Harbin International Snow & Ice Festival and the Shanghai World Expo to Guangzhou’s 16th Asian Games and Hainan’s deluxe beach resorts, here’s a look at five China destinations to keep an eye on in 2010.
Harbin is known for its annual snow and ice festival. // (C) 2010 Harry Alverson
ShanghaiChina’s most cosmopolitan city is set to host the World Expo 2010 (en.expo2010.cn) from May 1 to Oct. 31, which promises to host the largest, longest and most extravagant expo in the 159-year history of the event since The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. The more than three-square-mile expo site straddles the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai in two, and will host approximately 200 pavilions designed by the world’s top architects. Olympic style grand opening and closing ceremonies, 20,000 fringe events and a hoped-for 70 million visitors are also to be expected. In preparation for the expo, Shanghai underwent a major urban makeover, including expansions of the city’s two airports, the creation of an 11-line subway system, a cruise terminal addition, redevelopment of the iconic Bund and adding scores of new skyscrapers. Several swanky hotels will also launch before the expo opening, most notably The Peninsula Shanghai and the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
China’s most cosmopolitan city is set to host the World Expo 2010 () from May 1 to Oct. 31, which promises to host the largest, longest and most extravagant expo in the 159-year history of the event since The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. The more than three-square-mile expo site straddles the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai in two, and will host approximately 200 pavilions designed by the world’s top architects. Olympic style grand opening and closing ceremonies, 20,000 fringe events and a hoped-for 70 million visitors are also to be expected. In preparation for the expo, Shanghai underwent a major urban makeover, including expansions of the city’s two airports, the creation of an 11-line subway system, a cruise terminal addition, redevelopment of the iconic Bund and adding scores of new skyscrapers. Several swanky hotels will also launch before the expo opening, most notably The Peninsula Shanghai and the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
GuangzhouAnother major Chinese host city in 2010 is the southern port of Guangzhou. China’s third-largest city will host the 16th Asia Games (www.gz2010.cn) from Nov. 12-27. In preparation, the city is expanding and upgrading its Baiyun International Airport and adding several new architectural icons to the urban landscape, such as a Zaha Hadid-designed opera house (to open later this year) and an approximate 2,001-foot-high Guangzhou TV Tower. Several luxury international hotels are also jazzing up the formerly lackluster riverside hotel scene. The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou, and Grand Hyatt Guangzhou opened last year, with the Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou (2010) and W Guangzhou (December 2010) hotels in the pipeline.
HangzhouAfter a visit to southeastern China, 13th-century traveler Marco Polo famously eulogized: “In heaven, there is paradise, on earth, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.” Located 93 miles south of Shanghai and connected by China Railway High-Speed bullet trains taking just 85 minutes, Hangzhou remains one of China’s most cherished destinations for travelers and international investors alike. Built around the mythical Xi Hu (West Lake) and surrounded by hills dotted with temples, pagodas and tea plantations, the fast-growing city is luring luxury travelers with the arrival of a suite of top-end hotels and branded boutiques. Banyan Tree Hangzhou recently opened in the Xixi National Wetland Park last December, followed by Amanfayun in January and the Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake (to open in the second quarter of 2010). By night, visitors shouldn’t miss Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou’s “Impression West Lake,” an elaborate outdoor stage presentation that runs throughout the year on West Lake (www.hzyxxh.com).
HarbinHaving hosted the 24th World University Games (en.harbin2009.org) in 2009 and slated to bid for a future Winter Olympic Games, Harbin has invested some $453.7 million into developing world-class winter sports competition venues and infrastructure. The icy capital of Heilongjiang province, bordering Siberia in far-northern China, is a popular winter travel destination due to its celebrated annual Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival, which runs through January and February. Hardy visitors from around the world brave below-freezing conditions to enjoy giant sculptures of landmarks, animals and cultural icons carved from massive blocks of the frozen Songhua River.Situated 120 miles east of Harbin, in former Imperial Manchurian hunting grounds, Yabuli ski resort is being developed as China’s premier winter sports venue. At an elevation of approximately 4,508 feet, its ski season lasts up to six months. Yabuli is home to ski resort developer and operator Melco China Resorts, which is transforming Sun Mountain Yabuli into a world-class luxury mountain resort with top-end ski technology, three premium integrated resorts and mountainside resort homes (www.melcochinaresorts.com).
HainanNicknamed “China’s Hawaii” because it shares the same latitude as the U.S. islands, the large tropical isle of Hainan off China’s southern coast is heating up as a tourism destination. Benefiting from strong government support, tourism infrastructure is expanding rapidly and luxe hotels are springing up around hilly, forested bays and beach frontages. Joining Yalong Bay, which has developed as a family resort since the late 1990s, new resort areas are opening up island-wide. Many will be linked by a cross-island high-speed train in 2011. Recent openings include The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya; Banyan Tree Sanya Resort & Spa; Le Meridien Shimei Bay Beach Resort & Spa; and Mandarin Oriental, Sanya. These will be joined over the next couple of years by 6,158 new luxury hotel rooms, including those from Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces (Xiangshui Bay)and the Four Seasons (Kanyang Bay and Shenzhou Peninsula). Hainan is also a popular golfing, watersports and surfing destination.With Shanghai and Guangzhou hosting major international events this year, and Hainan, Hangzhou and Harbin investing heavily in infrastructure and attractions, Chinese tourism in 2010 offers more diversity than ever before.
China National Tourist Office, Los Angeles800-670-2228www.cnto.org
Three Hotels For 2010Throughout 2010, Chinese cities will welcome a number of new hotel properties, from Hangzhou to Shanghai. Here’s a look at three hotels ready to make their mark on the country’s vibrant hotel landscape.
AmanfayunAmanresorts just recently opened boutique resort, Amanfayun, in Hangzhou. The property features 42 unique rooms, suites and villas that formerly housed villagers who worked in the rural area’s nearby tea fields; each is outfitted with modern conveniences such as iPod docking stations, radiant heating and Internet connectivity. The property is also home to the Aman Spa, a library, meeting, room, restaurant, boutique and tea house. 800-477-9180www.amanresorts.com
Gran Melia ShanghaiThe Gran Melia Shanghai recently opened in December and is the first property in China for Mallorca, Spain-based hotelier, Gran Melia Hotels & Resorts. The 686-room property is located in the Lujiazui Financial & Trade Zone within the city’s central business district and is walking distance to the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Aquarium. The Gran Melia Shanghai is designed to cater to both business and luxury leisure travelers, offering Red Level premium room categories, in addition to numerous meeting and convention facilities. It also houses four dining venues, a YHI Spa and a full-service health club. 877-476-3542www.granmeliashanghai.com
Pan Pacific SuzhouThis month, Singapore-based Pan Pacific Hotels Group Limited opened the Pan Pacific Suzhou. The hotel, formerly a Sheraton Suzhou Hotel and Towers, was rebranded and refurbished and features 484 guestrooms, an executive lounge, a new Towers Wing and a fully equipped business center. The hotel’s Grand Ballroom is currently undergoing renovations and is scheduled to open in March. 877-324-4856www.pphg.com
Click here to read Assistant Editor Skye Mayring’s blog about Beijing hutongs and assorted delicacies.