Ritz-Carlton Expands Its Presence in China

Isaac Mostovicz writes that that brands are continuing to expand their presences in China ...

The luxury market in China has been steadily rising, as Chinese consumers look set to create a rise in luxury goods sales of 25 percent this year.

According to a Bain & Co. study from earlier this year, as second and third tier Chinese cities become ‘destinations’ for Luxury brands, China will become the third-largest luxury market in the next five years.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal,

“Bain predicts the worldwide growth trend will continue for the next few years, with sales rising between 5% and 6% each year to between 214 billion and 221 billion euros by 2014.”

This prediction is leant weight by the news of brands such as luxury hoteliers Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. expanding their presence in China. A recent article by Luxury Daily on the Ritz’s expansion notes that this is taking place as part of a $2 billion expansion. Ritz-Carlton already has eight hotels in China, and has made the decision to expand based on there being a growing affluent population that is beginning to reward itself with luxury goods, services and travel.

A Ritz-Carlton spokesperson said:

“Given the focus on China right now, there is no small secret that China is an emerging country when it comes to lots of different things… there is a huge amount of the population that is now on the move and starting to travel. There is also an equally large population following purchasing behaviours into a luxury market.”

As each Chinese city is very different, none of the Ritz-Carlton hotels in the country are the same, but rather are “culturally relevant”, with the locale reflected in menus and services.

Alongside the news of Ritz-Carlton’s expansion, it was announced today that US luxury bag maker Coach will be listing shares in Hong  Kong as it seeks to raise its profile among Asian consumers. This follows successful flotations by luxury fashion house Prada, and luggage provider Samsonite.

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Luxury hotels sees an upturn after the downturn

Isaac Mostovicz writes that hotels are rapidly recovering...

There have been reports lately of promising recovery in the luxury hotel industry. USA Today and Daily Finance tell us hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, St Regis and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide are just some of the big names seeing a boost in their revenue streams.

The Ritz-Carlton’s occupancy levels improved 10% from last year’s on average low of 60%, while Starwood’s W Hotels are seeing a 28% gain in its first quarter from key cities like New York. Across the board, luxury hotels in the US have also sold almost 17% more rooms than the same period last year and increased their occupancies by 20%. This has translated into hotels becoming more comfortable about hiring new staff. The U.S Department of Labour has the figures:

Employment rose by 45,000 in leisure and hospitality over the month. Much of this increase occurred in accommodation and food services, which added 29,000 jobs. Food services employment has risen by 84,000 over the past 4 months, while accommodation has added 18,000 jobs over the past 3 months.

This has contributed to the month’s highest employment rate since the recession. Though this is largely due to the comeback of business and leisure travellers, Barbara DeLollis of USA Today tells us there are also a number of other factors in the works. Attractive offers for instance:

“We just paid $149 per night for the W hotel in New Orleans, which made me feel pretty good,” says Joseph Frohlinger of Tenafly, N.J.

Also, there are fewer perception worries:

“A year ago, as we were in the depths of this crisis, there was a high level of paranoia about luxury travel,” van Paasschen [CEO of Starwood W Hotels) says. “That’s clearly gone away.”

In addition to this, financial service firms are offering more Wall Street deals, and business activities not only at home but also abroad have also increased. Kathleen Taylor, Four Seasons’ chief operating officer says this ‘strengthening [in] world economies are contributing to an uptick in people’s confidence in the future.’ Simon Cooper, a top executive at Ritz-Carlton confirms this with his report that the Westchester branch in N.Y. has been ‘packed with international business travelers lately’ seeing a 33% leap in revenue in comparison to last year’s figures.

These are all positive signs that the luxury hotel industry is on its way to recovering, though the general consensus seems to be that it won’t be the same as it was before the recession. Cooper tells us:

“The open bar is a little bit less open…couple of spa treatments’ and the big fruit basket in the room for every day are probably something of the past,” he says. “The excesses of two, three years ago are less prevalent today.”

Here, we see how much smarter and money-conscious luxury consumers have gotten. As seen in my previous blogs, other sectors of the luxury industry (art, fashion, watches and internet) have also been improving, albeit in an unexpected way because of new luxury consumer’s habits. One thing that is certain though: it will take some getting used to before the luxury market will become less surprised of more unexpected happenings in the future.

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The World’s Most Expensive Champagne Bubbles up from the Sea Bed

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

How far will one go for a bottle of bubbly? To the bottom of the ocean it seems for some, as 200 bottles of champagne have been recovered after nearly 100 years underwater. Not only will you be drinking one of the oldest champagnes in the world but you must be able to pay £156,000 a bottle for this luxury. The vintage 1907 Heidsieck champagne, that sunk on its way to the Russian Imperial family in 1916, was found near Finland and will go up for auction at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, date still unknown.

Earlier this year we saw the “community of the super-rich” offered up the chance to customize their own bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne, whereby, after lengthy discussion with the Cellar Master, you could personally add your chosen ‘liqueur’. At the time, this limited edition offer was the most expensive bottle of new champagne, going for a mere $6,485. it doesn’t compars to the starting price for this most recent discovery.

Has the time come when the elite are paying over the odds for a unique experience? Those with a Lambda worldview may disagree: for them, this once-in-a-lifetime, long lasting, perfectly preserved bubbly provides them with an unparalleled, unique experience, not to mention a great talking point over dinner. Thetas, on the other hand, would likely purchase one of the 200 bottles on offer for the chance it gives them to gain entry to this most elite “community of the super-rich”. To them, this bottle is yet another validation ticket into the inner circle for champagne connoisseurs.

Those lucky enough to be able to purchase one of the 200 bottles may be satisfying a collector’s impulse or simply indulging on a small piece of history.

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