2 March 2018
Hong Kong Hospitality Heats Up
With two MICE-oriented Sheraton hotels and the Marriott Ocean Park – the theme park’s first hotel – scheduled to open this summer, 2018 looks set to be a landmark year for the Hong Kong hospitality scene. Another hotly anticipated opening is the Rosewood Hong Kong, which will launch its first property in its hometown in September.
This year’s openings kicked off with The Murray in Central and Soravit on Granville in Tsim Sha Tsui. Both are operated by local companies: the former is the flagship Niccolo property under the Wharf Hotels portfolio, while the latter represents the second opening for boutique hospitality brand Soravit. Another Hong Kong-based company, Sun Hung Kai Hotels, which owns the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, will open its “affordable luxury” property, Hotel Vic on the Harbour, in June.
Historic Icon Reimagined
The Murray, Hong Kong in Central represented the first luxury hotel opening in the area for several years when it opened in January. Built in 1969 as government offices, it is one of only eight buildings designated as part of the Conserving Central initiative, which aims to recognise the area’s cultural and historical heritage. The hotel’s Managing Director, Duncan Palmer, says Niccolo wanted to reconnect this important civic landmark with the city by creating a hotel and leisure destination for locals and international travellers alike.
The hotel is owned by Hong Kong-based Wharf Hotels, which owns the Marco Polo and Niccolo Hotels brands. The Murray is the flagship Niccolo Hotel, a collection of contemporary properties that includes four more hotels located in Changsha, Chongqing, Chengdu and Suzhou in the Chinese mainland.
With some of the most generously-sized hotel rooms in the city – more than 75 per cent are 50 square metres or larger – the hotel seeks to redefine the idea of luxury, says Mr Palmer. “Luxury is about a generosity of space, and an inherent understanding of how the hotel responds to the needs of the guest.”
The company enlisted Foster + Partners to ensure that the architectural integrity of the original design was preserved, including the hotel’s unique driveway. “Guests experience a dramatic arrival into the hotel, and from the gradual approach up Cotton Tree Drive and down Garden Road and into the hotel’s courtyard, it resembles entering a private residence,” says Mr Palmer. The hotel also re-adapted a former car-park space under the building’s iconic arches into a semi-alfresco venue, The Arches, with an enhanced and extended landscaped grounds.
While the hotel scene in many Chinese mainland cities is booming, the more developed hotel scene in Hong Kong has seen fewer luxury hotel openings in recent years, making The Murray special, says Mr Palmer. “It’s not just a new hotel but the preservation of a local landmark, which creates a dialogue between old and new in our ever-changing city,” he says.
Following its January soft opening, the Murray Hotel is gearing up to launch the hotel’s restaurants and bars, including Cantonese restaurant Gu Fuo Lou in the second quarter, and its rooftop restaurant and bar Popinjays.
Coup for the East
Set to make its debut on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island in North Point around June, Sun Hung Kai Properties’ Hotel Vic is another major hotel opening for 2018. The hotel has an adjoining shopping mall, Harbour North, which is part of the North Point harbour front redevelopment project that is also being overseen by Sun Hung Kai Properties. Phase One of the shopping mall is located inside the hotel complex and is targetted to open three to four months after the hotel.
General Manager Byron Ko says the new hotel brand places great emphasis on technology: it’s the first hotel in Hong Kong to launch a check-in kiosk, for example, and will also have its own mobile app.
Mr Ko says Hotel Vic’s location in the colourful area of North Point sets it apart from other new hotels. “North Point features some of the city’s most iconic attractions such as Sunbeam Theatre and Chun Yeung Street. Its history is reflected in the names of roads, such as Electric Road, Power Street and Wharf Road, which reminds people of the old days when North Point was a booming industrial district. With such a rich history, we believe this is what the new travel generation are looking for,” he says.
Another unique hotel feature is a 400-metre long harbour front promenade located next to the hotel. With the second phase of the shopping mall set to fully open in 2019, Mr Ko believes that North Point will see an uptick in the number of local and overseas visitors. “[The promenade] is set to define a new level of harbour living and transform the whole North Point area,” he says.
Local boutique hotel brand Soravit, meanwhile, has opened its second property in Tsim Sha Tsui, Soravit on Granville, which is described by Soravit CEO Alexander Fu as the city’s first Thai-themed hotel. “Soravit Hotels Group specialises in establishing concept-driven, themed boutique hotels, so we often strive to come up with something unique in our development,” says Mr Fu. “My mother was born and raised in Thailand, so we thought it would be a great idea to illustrate Thai traditional and cultural values aesthetically throughout this new project."
As Thailand takes great pride in its hospitality, Mr Fu was also keen to implement the same level of comfort and sincerity into a boutique accommodation within the hustle bustle of Hong Kong.
Soravit Hotel Group’s other property, Attitude on Granville, is billed as a trendier offering than Soravit, which Mr Fu describes as his more upmarket hotel. “Room rates at Soravit are higher but the difference is justified by another level of comfort and appreciation. The custom-made artwork, for example, highlights the fine culture and traditions of Thailand, while images are sprayed and hand-painted at Attitude on Granville to show the transition between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Hong Kong,” says Mr Fu, who describes the two boutique hotels as essentially two siblings with their own unique personalities and characteristics.
The diversity and dynamism of Tsim Sha Tsui make it a great location for hotels, says Mr Fu. “Tourists love the idea that they can really experience authentic Hong Kong characteristics and Western influences from a great mix of local brands, malls and boutiques.”