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Chinese leader stay at Eau chance for resort, county to stand out


When Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to town this week to meet with President Donald Trump, he’ll be staying at one of South Florida’s most luxurious and award-winning vacation spots — the beachfront Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan.

The two-day visit is expected to again put the international spotlight on Palm Beach County’s tourism industry, as media outlets from across the globe gather here to cover the summit.

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Local tourism officials are hoping the coverage will help raise the county’s profile as a destination for international visitors — particularly for those from China, which has become a key travel market for the United States in recent years. Chinese tourists are among the country’s fastest-growing and highest-spending travel groups, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The Eau resort hasn’t confirmed Xi’s visit, but Lantana Police Chief Sean Scheller has told town officials the Chinese president will be staying at the beachfront retreat while meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and Friday.

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“Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is a Forbes Five-Star resort, and as a result the privacy of our guests is our number one priority,” Nick Gold, the Eau’s director of public relations, said in a prepared statement released by the resort. “It is our policy not to comment on guests who may or may not be staying with us.”

The Eau, located on a 7-acre site with ocean views and lush tropical gardens, underwent a major transformation in 2013 — dropping the Ritz-Carlton name and re-branding itself as a beachfront getaway for both out-of-town guests and locals looking for a beachfront retreat.

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It’s amenities include an award-winning spa; four restaurants and lounges; three Har-Tru clay tennis courts; two pools; children and teen clubs and more than 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

President Xi’s visit will make the second time in five years that a president has stayed at the property.

Former President Barack Obama spent a night at the resort while on the campaign trail in 2012. The property was still operating under the Ritz-Carlton brand during Obama’s stay.

County tourism officials say next week’s summit has already drawn the attention of Chinese media outlets.

“Since the announcement of President Xi’s visit to Palm Beach, we’ve received increased interest from Chinese media to learn more about the destination from a tourism perspective,” said Ashley Svarney, director of public relations and communications for Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing corporation. “We believe that the global exposure will highlight The Palm Beaches even more to potential visitors from China.”

Chinese journalists have specifically requested information about things to do in The Palm Beaches, luxury accommodations, shopping and golfing, Svarney said.

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China was the third-largest overseas inbound travel market to the U.S. in 2015, and is projected to be the largest by 2021, according to a report released last year by the U.S. Travel Association. In 2015, roughly 2.6 million Chinese travelers visited the U.S., spending an average of $7,201 during their trip — more than visitors from any other country, the association said.

Roughly 312,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Florida in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 2015’s level, tourism officials said. Palm Beach County tourism officials hope Xi’s visit will help draw more of those visitors here, Svarney said.

“Though this opportunity, we aim to inspire more Chinese visitors to travel here, to this part of Florida,” Svarney said. “Every time a journalist broadcasts or shares photos from The Palm Beaches, a global audience sees a taste of this slice of paradise.”

The Eau isn’t the only posh retreat on the county’s coast. Within less than 10 miles, Palm Beach sports three luxury hotels — The Eau, The Four Seasons and The Breakers — arguably the most concentrated area of high-profile resorts in Florida.

The three hotels are consistently ranked among the best in the state.

Last year, the Eau was named the best resort on the state’s Atlantic Coast in Conde Nast Traveler’s annual readers’ choice awards. The Four Seasons and The Breakers both ranked in the Top 20.

The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are considered to be among the most prestigious in the tourism industry. It marked the second year in a row the beachfront resort made the list. More than 300,000 readers cast votes to determine last year’s winners.

The Eau and The Four Seasons have also earned top marks from Forbes Travel Guide.

In February, Forbes awarded both properties its Five-Star hotel designation — the highest ranking awarded by travel guide. It marked the second year in a row the Eau had received the top honor.

Eau Palm Beach was also awarded the Five-Star designation for its spa — marking the third consecutive year the Eau Spa has received the top designation.



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