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Standing tall in Tianjin
Published on: 2010-07-19
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The Raffles Tianjin provides a professional service to business travelers and relaxed enjoyment to leisure travelers

Like many Asian hoteliers, Raffles, the Singapore-based luxury chain, has extensive expansion plans. But with its new Tianjin property, the company is taking its vertical ambition literally.

The Raffles Tianjin marks the corporation's first "penthouse"-style operation. It offers soaring views of the bustling business hub, where construction cranes vie for visual turf with tourist attractions. With its deluxe amenities and top-flight service, a stay at Raffles gives the sense that you have arrived.

The Raffles experience starts even before you arrive - especially for business travelers.

"From the minute you make your booking, you'll be assigned a business concierge, whom you can SMS with requests for whatever your needs are," says Gilbert Madhavan general manager of the hotel. And requests can range from arranging gifts for a meeting to organizing a professional translator for a city tour.

"We'll have a whole team ready," Madhavan says.

On arrival, instead of standing at a ubiquitous reception counter, guests are directed to one of the three desks where one sits in a plush leather chair while all check-in formalities are completed.

Once handed the room access card, a "personal butler" will accompany the guests to the room and all the amenities.

This is the type of service the Raffles chain takes pride in. "You don't just get your key and you're on your own," Madhavan says.

The hotel, which was officially opened at the end of June, reflects the needs of the business travelers, Madhavan says. For example, every room has a spacious desk fitted with universal power adaptors to provide guests with a comfortable working environment.

Each room also features a spacious bathroom, which takes up about a third of the floor space. TV addicts can watch the tube while soaking in a large stand-alone tub. But why watch the telly when the best show is outside the window?

The hotel takes up 18 floors of the newly opened 53-story Tianjin Center, with its 116 rooms and suites occupying Levels 36-48. It sits at the corner of Nanjing and Guiyang roads of Heping district, which locals say is the busiest business area of the city of about 12 million, just a 30-minute bullet train ride southeast from Beijing.

Madhavan says Tianjin is the "economic growth city of China" which is also appealing to the leisure traveler who can enjoy the city sights in a day. "You don't expect to see European architecture in most Chinese cities, but here in Tianjin you can be satisfied."

Hotel guests interested in shopping don't have to stray too far. A few minutes' walk away is one of the city's prime shopping belts, Binjiang Avenue, where dozens of retailers line the street, offering a wide variety of products.

And the city boasts easy access to two sections of the Great Wall that are less touristy than those in Beijing, Madhavan says.

Like all five-star hotels, the Raffles boasts top-class restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. A must-try experience is the SU Restaurant where one can have a choice of Japanese or Western meals, while enjoying the panoramic view of the city 49 stories below.

Dining over a teppanyaki table or cutting into a beautifully moist tenderloin steak can also serve as a prelude to an evening at the Cityspace Rooftop Bar, one floor above, where a West Indian couple provides live music. The repertoire of the couple - Jab plays the saxophone and his wife Dee sings - ranges from Nat King Cole to Motown.

Madhavan, who has managed Raffles' hotels and resorts in areas as diverse as Canouan Island in the Caribbean to Siem Reap in Cambodia, says each of the group's hotels is unique.

"Rather than having cookie-cutter hotels, every hotel reflects the city we are in," he says.

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