Travel Writer Vincent Wang on the Hospitality Industry in China

By Dominic Ngai, April 18, 2019

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For many, turning 30 is a major milestone in life. On Vincent Wang’s 30th birthday in February 2018, the Shanghai-based travel writer and hotel enthusiast decided to turn one of his dreams into reality, and started his own official WeChat account – Vincent’s Hotel Lab. Here, the former executive editor of luxury travel website Zanadu and longtime contributor to the Chinese editions of Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and GQ writes regularly and extensively about his life on the road, offers in-depth analysis on industry trends, and dives deeply into the history, design aesthetics and service qualities of different hotel properties and brands in China and beyond. 

One year after starting his own platform, Wang has already racked up a loyal following of industry folks and avid travelers around the country. We caught up with the busy jetsetter to chat about the current state of affairs in China’s hospitality world, hotel design trends and his massive collection of hotel brochures.

On developing an interest in hotels…
It started when I was very young. Back then, many high-end hotels in Shanghai were situated on top of tall buildings with sightseeing elevators, rooftop restaurants and indoor water fountains. I was always excited when we had the opportunity to visit our overseas relatives who stayed there. I started collecting hotel brochures when I was 6, and always asked my mom to take me to new hotels to pick some up as a reward for completing my piano lessons. 

On the first hotel that left a deep impression…
At the age of 12, I visited Palazzo Versace in Gold Coast, Australia. The designer uniforms, tableware and furniture, combined with a view of the beautiful lagoon and the contemporary-meets-neo-classical architecture, were truly inspiring. 

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Part of his hotel brochure collection. Image courtesy of Vincent Wang

On his massive collection of hotel brochures…
I’ve collected 2,000 copies so far. When I first started more than two decades ago, most hotels had a brochure rack at the front desk, so I could easily walk up and take them home. Nowadays, many properties no longer have print brochures as they try to be more digital and environmentally friendly. 

On the number of hotels he has stayed in…
In 2018, I spent 105 nights in 71 hotels. That brings my grand total to around 300 altogether.

On how life has changed since starting his own WeChat account…
It hasn’t really changed. It’s still a lot of content writing and traveling just like before.

On what good and bad hotels are for him…
Originality in design, attentiveness of staff, a sense of home and tasteful and well-mannered guests are hallmarks of a good hotel. I’m not a fan of designs that are not eco-friendly or too over-the-top.

"There’s a need for more passionate and experienced operators and staff. After all, hotel is a people-oriented business"

On China’s hospitality industry…
The high number of openings gives us more options – more well-designed spaces, new dining concepts – which are all good things for consumers. However, I think many hotels in China look very similar. There’s also a need for more passionate and experienced operators and staff. After all, it is a people-oriented business.

On the worst hotel experience he’s had…
I once stayed at one of the most legendary properties in Hong Kong, which had been my dream hotel for a long time. Unfortunately, they welcomed me with cold service, bed sheet with holes and cracker crumbs on the carpet of my room.

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Part of his hotel brochure collection. Image courtesy of Vincent Wang

On hotel design trends in China…
I want to see more originality; anything that is original should be encouraged. On the other hand, I think we’ve seen enough of places that are deliberately made to be photogenic and Instagram-friendly, with all the unnecessary amenities and decorations that serve zero purpose. 

On the most exciting hotel openings in 2019…
The first one is the reopening of Hotel Okura Tokyo (in September). I’m looking forward to seeing the interior of the new extension building created by the original designer’s son. I personally think this hotel has the best service in Tokyo and its charming 1960s atmosphere is such a treat. Another is the Rosewood Hong Kong (opened in March). For this project, Tony Chi updated his whole design philosophy by using many different colors. The Rosewood brand is also developing really fast, so the opening of its flagship property will likely become a trendsetter for the industry.


Follow Vincent’s Hotel Lab (ID: Vincent-Hotel-Lab) to read more of his articles.

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