Xian earns its place on the global stage on the merits of its historical riches and its wealth of amenities for the modern traveller. Times are good, with the city notching 8.85 million tourists during the most recent National Day holiday, up 12 per cent year-on-year, according to Shirley Li director of sales and marketing, Wyndham Grand Xian South and the Wyndham Grand Xian Residence.
That’s just a drop in the bucket of the 3.86 billion people who visited last year, says Markus Christ, general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel, Xian.
Travellers with an eye on luxury gravitate to the dozen-plus international hotel brands in the city, which boasts “more than 60 existing five-star hotels, local and international brands”, says Rick Sun, director of sales and marketing, Hyatt Regency Xian.
Xian is a city with a distinct rhythm to its tourism. “High season is May till October included; summertime because of tourism; September and October because of the Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays,” says Adrian Prado, general manager of Gran Meliá Xian.
Five-star hotel guests can typically expect to spend around 800 yuan (HK$900) per room, although prices can dip to 600 yuan during the off-season. Incentives such as a free massage or dinner can be found during the winter months.
Because Xian is a historical centre of power and modern metropolis, it draws a mix of visitors. “We’ve been a prime residence for business travellers since China first opened up and we also attract leisure travellers,” Christ says.
At Hyatt Regency Xian, “the main [guest] segments for our hotel are the domestic leisure travellers and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) groups”, Sun says. While the Gran Meliá Xian has a preponderance of domestic guests, the hotel has “a high proportion of Korean guests because of the Samsung factory here”, Prado says.
As a European company, the hotel draws significant numbers from Europe and the United States.
The variety of premium hotels means that upscale hotels put an emphasis on standing apart from the crowd.
Located in the Qujiang District, the Wyndham Grand Xian South and the Wyndham Grand Xian Residence are within walking distance of many tourist sites and are close to the Xian Convention Centre, Li says. With more than 550 guest rooms at the hotel and additional residences next door, the facilities can accommodate large groups, she adds.
Christ emphasises the Shangri-La Hotel’s “most convenient location and its business-related facilities, such as well-appointed meeting rooms”. He notes that the hotel will help leisure travellers find “tailor-made tours fit for your schedule and interests”. Featured room packages also attract potential guests, he adds.
In addition to the usual guest amenities, Sun of the Hyatt Regency Xian emphasises the Tang dynasty cultural theme of the hotel. He highlights a performance in the Royal Tang dynasty style that welcomes VIP guests.
The Gran Meliá Xian offers a resort experience, says Prado, thanks to its lakeside location in the Qujiang District and its proximity to the Tang Paradise theme park. “You come for business, [and] we give you the sensation [in which] you can totally relax”, he adds. The hotel also boasts Xian’s only authentic Spanish restaurant.
For all the changes Xian and China have experienced, the travel and leisure industry is evolving equally quickly. The hard economic times of recent years impacted international travellers, meaning that “hotels and resorts have had to change, streamlining their operations and refocusing their marketing”, Christ says. Because business travel is inevitable, “drawing business travellers is more important than ever for hotels and resorts”, he adds.
At the same time China’s domestic economy continues to grow, as does “both the business and leisure market”, Sun says. “Domestic travellers are a higher and higher percentage of hotel visitors”, he notes, even as mainland China [guests] request higher standard accommodation during their trips” than before.
Domestic and international travellers are also more tech-savvy than ever. “Even when we speak with the guests, what they appreciate now is everything related to technology, they care more about stable Wi-fi than hot water”, says Prado. “It’s a mindset rather than a matter of age”.
In Xian and throughout China, there’s a huge growth in the number of upscale hotels. “Normally, more hotels opening bring more challenges and some hotels may feel a threat,” Li says. “But for us, we consider it a good opportunity because now we can [collectively] afford bigger MICE groups and events.”