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Hong Leong's Guocoland China moves into bigger integrated development

KUALA LUMPUR: Hong Leong Group's property arm GuocoLand (China) Ltd (GLC) is set to go bigger into integrated development in China from its early years of  single building projects when it first set foot in  that country.

GLC managing director Violet Lee said that after GLC's flagship project Guoson Centre won the Best International Mixed-Use Development award last week in London, she was positive that integrated development was the way to go for the company.

Taking the prize at the International Property Awards had given her more confidence to continue with even bigger integrated development projects, she said.

"Over the years, we have transformed from single building projects to mega integrated projects of 100,000 sq metres, 600,000 sq metres," she said.

Now, the company "will do bigger", she told Malaysian, Singaporean and Hong Kong journalists in London last weekend after the award ceremony  

"The next project in Beijing is going to be 1.4 million sq metres and in Tianjin 1.2 million sq metres, even bigger, double the size I am doing now," said Lee, who initiated the Guoson Centre development.

She said that after winning the award, at least she knew that she was doing the right thing and that she had been recognised for producing quality products.

"So if I continue with this development, this way of doing things I should not be wrong," she said, adding that GLC's focus would be on integrated developments in the years to come.

GLC's developments are in prime locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Tianjin.  

Lee said that to-date GLC, which was established in 1994, has a land bank of some 2.5 million sq metres valued at over US$3.5 billion in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Tianjin.

"We are not intending to move out of these four cities. They will always be within these four cities," she addded.

The award winner Guoson Centre is a sustainable and fully-integrated development brand in Beijing and Shanghai. Comprising a large-scale cosmopolitan Guoson Mall, five-star British-styled Guoman Hotels, Grade A Office Towers, high-end residences, and expansive Singapore-inspired "Garden City" landscaping, the Guoson Centre combines aspects of "Work, Live, Play" in resembling a city within a city.

Built specifically on prime locations that integrate two of the largest transportation hubs in the world, Guoson Centre is set to provide local, national, and global interconnectivity while satisfying the market's needs for eco-friendly environments and cosmopolitan lifestyles. The  centre is strategically located to provide easy access to some of the largest transportation hubs in the world, connecting urban, national and global centres.

Lee said that the US$2 billion 600,000 sq metres Beijing Guoson Centre is 90 per cent completed while the slightly smaller US$600 million Shanghai centre is on its first phase.

The US$80 million Guoman Hotel Shanghai, which is located within the Shanghai Guoson Centre, is already opened for business while the Guoman Hotel Beijing will open in July next year.

Touching on the hospitality sector, especially the hotel sector, where GuocoLand has ventured into, Lee said that despite the stiff competition there was still a market for hotels if "you differentiate yourselves from the rest of the people in the industry."

She noted that two years ago when China hosted the Olympic Games a lot of money were thrown into the hospitality business, with hotels sprouting out everywhere coupled with entertainment complexes, restaurants and malls. Similar facilities also emerged during the recent Shanghai Expo which was held from May 1 to Oct 31.    

"But can you sustain this, that is the big question. To me, I think a lot of it will depend on the products that you are giving to the market. That means the hotel itself."

Another factor would be the services one is providing because "branding comes not only with the products, a lot of it with the software too — the services."

"When we march into a hotel, no bell boy to take your luggage, you walk to the front desk and they are talking on the phone and do not even want to look at you, I don't think you would want to go back to the same hotel.

"So is there a market for hotels? The answer is yes,  Despite the competition, there is a market. But you have to differentiate yourselves from the rest of the people in the industry," she said

So how is this done apart from having products that are spectacular?

"To me, I always emphasise on the different kinds of services.  People say in a hotel you are looking for comfort, you don't want to feel inhibited. You want to be comfortable. You want to know that people are looking over you. Actually in Guoman (hotels) we emphasise a lot on these services."

For example, she said that the Guoman Hotel Shanghai opened a few months ago is a "true blue five-star standard hotel" where the design was done from scratch.

"From now on all new hotels will be like the hotels in China. Those are our own own hotels we build from scratch. The next one in Beijing, you will see the Guoman signature."

Apart from the hotels in Shanghai and Beijing, one is being planned in Nanjing, and there would also be a hotel in Tianjin, she said, adding that all these hotels had and would have the Guoman signature.

Britain's Guoman, which runs the hotels, has a 30-year history in hospitality management.

Lee was reported to have said at the launching of the Guoman Hotel Shanghai that with Guoman's 30-year history in hospitality management and its uniqueness in services, she was confident of the group's future in the China market. — Bernama
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