HONG KONG—There’s no mistaking Langham Hotels International leans on its namesake property—the 145-year-old Langham London—as its foundation. But, as it continues to establish its footprint around the globe, the owner/operator of the luxury brand is seeking to extend that tradition.
Ka Shui Lo, executive chairman of Langham Hotels International and chairman and managing director of parent company Great Eagle Holdings Limited, said during a general-session interview at last month’s Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (hicapconference.com) the company is actively pursuing adding to the 24 hotels open or in development. He frequently referred to the flagship property’s history as a cornerstone of the brand’s future.
“We are an owner/operator. Most of our hotels are owned 100%,” said Lo, who is a qualified cardiologist (he earned his medical degree from Cornell University) and biophysicist (he earned his degree from McGill University in Montreal). “The advantage (of that is) … we look at the hotel from all angles. We look at long term. We invest in the hotels. We innovate so the future will be better.
Ka Shui Lo
Langham Hotels International
“Even when we manage for other developers and owners we take the same mentality.”
Lo made it clear the Asia/Pacific region holds the most promise for Langham.
“For the next 15 to 20 years it will be this part of the world that we’ll focus,” he said.
In addition to its flagship property in London, the company has 11 hotels open:
Hong Kong: The Langham Hong Kong; Langham Place Mongkok; and Eaton Hong Kong.
China: The Langham, Yangtze Boutique, Shanghai; Langham Place, Beijing Capital Airport; and Eaton Luxe, Nanqiao, Shanghai.
North America: The Langham Boston; and The Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena, California.
Pacific: The Langham, Auckland, New Zealand; and The Langham, Melbourne, Australia.
Thailand: Langham Place Samui at Lamai Beach.
The Hong Kong-based brand, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Eagle, has 11 projects in various stages of development:
India: Langham Place, Koregaon Park, Pune.
China: The Langham, Xintiandi, Shanghai; Langham Place, Beijing; Langham Place, EDZ, Guangzhou; Langham Place, Pazhou, Guangzhou; Langham Place, Ningbo Culture Plaza, Ningbo; and The Langham, Shenzhen.
Thailand: Langham Place Miora Resort + Spa, Kalim Bay, Phuket; The Langham, Sukhumvit, Bangkok; and Langham Place, Phayathai, Bangkok.
North America: Langham Place, Resort + Spa, Port St. George, Bahamas.
Middle East: Langham Place, Doha, Qatar.
“Mainland Chinese clientele accounts for maybe 15% of our guest total in the world,” Lo said during the interview conducted by Ben McLannahan of the Financial Times. “I expect it to go up to 50% looking at the growth in China.”
The real-estate market has enjoyed a surge throughout Asia, except in Japan, according to Lo. His company’s aggressive expansion in China is the result of an exploding economy.
“China is where things are starting from a low base and you’re going to see a huge upside,” he said.
Lo noted land prices are high for Class A sites in places such as Beijing and Shanghai. However, sites in secondary locations are reasonably priced.
| Langham's flagship property in London.
The new Silk Road
Lo noted the new Silk Road between China and the Middle East, India and Africa will be a boon for hotel brands such as Langham.
“China is the second largest economy in the world now and in 15 to 20 years most people believe it will become the largest economy in the world,” Lo said. “From 1980 to now China’s (gross domestic product) has grown 72 times. There probably are not enough hotels for all the economic growth.”
Lo said the United States hotel market performed the worst among the global regions and the company felt the pinch.
“Even from an asset viewpoint, things that I bought 15 years ago seem that I’m back in the same place,” he said. “If I can buy cheaply in America, I would buy.”
The Langham philosophy
With a culture that dates to 1865 (the company’s guest-loyalty program is called 1865), Langham has a clear philosophy about what it wants to be.
“We look at every guest as a potential long-term guest,” he said. “Basically, the hotel industry comes down to simple things: Know your guests and let them bring back good memories.”
He added Langham must remain an innovative company and keep the needs of the guests at the forefront.
“The world keeps changing; we have to cater to different classes of clients,” he said. “You have to recognize things are changing all the time and you have to keep up.”