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Travel agents booking clients into luxury accommodations are likely familiar with Sofitel hotels, especially properties in European capitals. Although Sofitel may not be top of mind when thinking of China, agents might want to take a second look.
Sofitel has brought its distinctive look and feel to China in a major way. Currently, the brand has 18 properties in China. As expected, the properties are concentrated mostly in the major cities for leisure and business travel. Beijing, for example, has two Sofitels; Shanghai, two as well; another four are located in Shenzhen Province; and yet another three in Guangdong Province.
But agents who have clients traveling to more remote provinces can book Sofitel as well. In Sichuan Province, which has Tibet on its western border, visitors will find the 262-room Sofitel Wanda Chengdu.
Located just south of the Shanghai Municipality, Zhejiang Province isn’t necessarily remote, but it may be a bit less known. Even so, it offers two Sofitels. In the capital city is the 200-room Sofitel Hangzhou and not far from the East China Sea is Ningbo and the 290-room Sofitel Wanda Ningbo.
As substantial as Sofitel’s current presence is in China, there’s more to come. On Oct. 5, Shanghai will see the opening of the Sofitel Shanghai Jiag’an under new general manager William J. Haandrikman, who has been serving as general manager of Sofitel’s Vienna Stephansdom. This newest Sofitel will feature 503 rooms and suites within a 58-floor tower building.
“Leisure travel among the Chinese has come on enormously,” Haandrikman said. “And the Chinese love the Sofitel brand. It brings them five-star luxury from Europe and French elegance.
Also scheduled to open, this coming January, will be the 231-room Sofitel Guiyang in Guizhou Province. Its dedication will be followed in March with the opening of 405-room Sofitel Kunming Kunsteel in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province.
All this expansion is just the beginning, too. Markland Blaiklock, senior vice president of Sofitel Asia Pacific, said there are eight new hotels “in the pipeline” to open in the next three years. In addition to new properties in Shanghai, Kunming and Xian, he reports there will also be openings in Liangyungag, Haikou, Foshan and Changsha.
“Sofitel was one of the first international brands in China with the opening of the Shanghai Hyland in 1993,” said Blaiklock. “And we continue to see strong potential in China, both in terms of domestic travel and the ever-growing outbound business.”
He said that Sofitel’s existing network of 27 hotels, including those in the pipeline, could grow to 30 by 2016.
“Our ambition is to be present in all the provincial capitals,” he said, “and at the same time increase the brand’s representation in the three primary cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou Province, where each already has three properties.”