Raising Hotel Luxuries Under Sanya's Sun

Albert RouwendalAlbert Rouwendal is the general manager of Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya and has witnessed both the growth of Hainan's tourism sector and is playing a key role in its future growth. Sanya is beckoning travelers from around the world as a new alternative for relaxing vacations in China.

A Dutch national, Rouwendal attended the Hotel School Netherlands, BBA -CHN University, Cornell and University of Amsterdam. He started his career in France with the InterContinental Paris and Le Meurice InterContinental in 1984. He then moved around the world working for InterContinental, Shangri-La and Hilton.

How big are your hotel operations in Sanya, and how have they developed since you first opened?
Located at the beach, on a plot of 2.5 sq km, we have a total of 408 rooms and suites including a Presidential Villa with 12 rooms and suites; 12 spa villas; all rooms with balcony and outside baths; and 75% of the rooms have an ocean view.

We have various restaurants, including the Paulaner Brauhaus with our own brewery. Seafood and BBQ is served on the beach and we have a Chinese restaurant with a noodle and dim sum counter.

We had our soft opening on January 15 and little by little took reservations. There was a huge demand especially for the middle of January, but we decided to start slowly and test out first.

Everybody in Sanya was waiting for some new good restaurants and especially a decent freshly brewed beer while enjoying the ocean views. Sanya business is good, and we have receive many room requests already.

How have visitor arrivals changed since you have worked in Sanya, and how do you expect the demographics to change over the next few years, and why?
I have been in Sanya now for over 5 months and have seen business growing every day. In the past there were slow months like July and August, however now it seems there is hardly a slow period, and the demand is good all over the year. The international airport has been renovated and can now handle the increasing number of local and international flights. Business from Europe including Rusia has developed further and more direct flights from Europe will come in 2007. The Sanya Hoteliers Association, Tourist Board and government work very close together to further enhance the Sanya experience and to promote Sanya both locally as well as internationally. We will see more Western Europeans visiting Sanya as well as more Korean and southeast Asian tourists.

What sort of support are hoteliers receiving from the local government in your hotel operations?
There is a kind of forum whereby we interact with the local government and tourism organization. The Hoteliers Association works close with the government in further developing Sanya tourism. This year the Sanya hotels will have a special Sanya booth on the ITB and there are various joint promotions many of them initiated by the tourist and government organizations.

Is it easy to get good staff to come work in Sanya?
Sanya is like Beijing and Shanghai. There is a high demand for experienced and well trained staff. With more and more international hotels coming to Sanya, the local supply of experienced staff is not enough and we hired staff from the mainland.

The market is getting crowded in Sanya and Hainan. How are you making your hotel stand out from the crowd?
Kempinski is not just a luxury hotel chain it is a family of more than 80 exclusive hotels and resorts which started 100 years ago in Berlin, Germany. Now we have over 80 hotels and resorts all over the world and each one unique and special on its own. There are more international flights coming into Sanya and the local market has only started to get to know Sanya. There is a huge potential both locally as well as internationally. Chinese holiday makers more and more demand international standards and services and have a good eye for quality and service., here we see a huge new market. We at the Kempinski Hotel Sanya have the advantage of both location and product . The hotel is not far from the city and major tourist attractions, is located on a 300 mtr private sand beach, has fantastic pools, the highest children water slide, beach water sports and a variety of international restaurants and bars including our Paulaner Brauhaus with our own home brewed beer.

When you relax in Sanya, what do you enjoy doing with your time?
Try and spend as much as possible time with my family, swim or read. With an opening hotel, I had little time to really enjoy the good life in Sanya, however, I hope to pick up golf again, as there are good golf and driving ranges at ten minutes, and there is a lot to see and do besides beach, sailing , diving and trips to the mountains and nature reserves.

How to you feel about the development in Sanya and do you feel in the infrastructure is in place to cope with its travel market?
Every day I see progress, new services and better facilities. There are a lot of new developments and everything is going fast. Plans are ready for new golf courses, yacht clubs, new hotels and more and more free standing restaurants find their way to the city. The western part will further develop as the most luxurious and exclusive part of Sanya, with more hotels, apartment complexes and villas. Sanya is changing rapidly.

How do you feel Sanya compares to other resort areas in Southeast Asia and what do you feel are its competitive advantages?
Sanya is new, it is China and it has more to offer than only beach and 360 days of sun. It is a true undiscovered paradise, something new. Sanya will long term have better connections to the world than other major players, it will have a modern infrastructure, all top hotel chains and spa operators and offers the tourist good connections with the Chinese mainland tourist spots. The people in Hainan are friendly and the environment is safe.

If you were to change something about Sanya what would it be?
I would develop the boulevard and Sanya Bay City further and make use of the only sunset spot in Sanya.