At a December breakfast meeting in Beijing's Peninsula Palace Hotel with representatives from American and Asian travel and meetings press, Simon Cooper, President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. LLC, announced several new initiatives for the company in Asia. “We've just gotten budget approval to open a regional office for Asia because we have so much going on here,” he said.

The company will open two properties in China's capital soon: the 256-room Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, Financial Street in fall 2006; and a 320-room hotel on Chang An Avenue, part of a residential and retail complex called China Central Place, in 2007.

Asia will be “very much a focus for at least the next seven years,” said Cooper. The company has a 243-room property in Bali, Indonesia, and it plans to open a 338-room hotel in May in Jakarta. He said Ritz-Carlton's new hotel in Kowloon in Hong Kong is our “worst-kept secret.” The 300-room hotel will open in 2009, occupying the upper 13 floors of a 100-story building, making it the “highest hotel in the world.”

According to Cooper, a Tokyo property in the Roppongi District, set to open in early 2007, is “our most expensive hotel.” The 14-acre parcel of land, bought by the company two years ago, set a new price per acre for Japan. With 250 guest rooms, the hotel will occupy the top nine levels of a dramatic skyscraper.

The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, opened in 1998 with 578 rooms, has won multiple awards, including “Best Business Hotel in China” from Business Asia magazine. A letter of intent has been signed to open a second Ritz-Carlton property in Shanghai on Century Boulevard in the heart of Pudong's Lujiazui District.

“Our goal,” said Cooper, “is to have 20 hotels in Asia by 2009. We expect to own the luxury hotel business in Asia.”