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Raffles at the starting blocks

Since the beginning of the summer, Beijing has added a new palace to its inventory. The Raffles Beijing Hotel joined the Peninsula, St Regis, Kempinski, Shangri-La and InterContinental at the heart of the Chinese capital. As the 2008 Olympics approach, the world’s leading hotel brands have entered a race to prepare themselves for the gunfire. In less than two years, Ritz-Carlton, Regent, Park Hyatt, Four Seasons, Conrad will complete a supply that is exploding. And of course there are the future Sofitel, Westin, Millenium... The group of Singaporean origin thus pre-empted these by taking over one of the city’s icons: the old "Grand Hotel de Peking" which opened in 1917. In April 2005 Raffles signed an agreement with the Beijing Tourism Group (BTG) to take over the management of the two historic wings – of the four existing ones – in the vast Beijing Hotel complex. Nine months of renovations were necessary to reopen it as a 171-room palace with a 884 sq.m presidential suite. This property with its Asian-French luxury promises to be one of the places for social and diplomatic life in the Chinese capital since it is located just a step away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, at the intersection of Avenue Chang An and the city’s main shopping street, Wangfujing. The opening of the brand’s ninth property summons others. Five are in the works in Asia- Pacific and in Dubai. The merger of the Raffles and Fairmont groups, under the aegis of new co-owners Colony Capital and Kingdom Hotels, should provide new momentum for the collection of legendary hotels.

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