A guestroom in the Peninsula Hong Kong.
HONG KONG—A hotel company that opened its first hotel in 1928 and is about to open its 10th in 2013 is clearly not moving quickly on the expansion front. But Peninsula Hotels sees itself as being at the forefront of the luxury market in terms of technology, service and approach.
“Our brand remains the same brand,” said Clement Kwok, CEO of The Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels Limited—owner of the Peninsula brand—in an interview with HotelNewsNow.com. “What we stand for is gracious hospitality, long term holding of assets and a commitment to quality and services. None of that has changed and all will continue to be the case.”
Kwok said the main reason for Peninsula’s slow growth is its business model. “We continue to be an owner-operator,” Kwok said. “We are either the sole or part owner because we hold assets for the long term. In line with that, we have a long-term commitment to improving our assets and maintaining our quality.”
“Because we believe in the principle of being an owner and operator, we will only be able to have a finite number of properties,” he continued. “We have different financial structures depending on the individual situation. For instance, in Tokyo, Mitsubishi owns most of the land next to the Imperial Palace, but they wanted a branded hotel there. That circumstance dictated a partnership.”
Kwok said Peninsula’s intent is not to plant a lot of flags around the world. Instead, the company wants to create something “a little special,” Kwok said.
“We would far rather be a collection of 10 or 15 landmark hotels than replicating our brand many times over,” he said. “However, we are looking at many markets, including in the U.S., and if the right opportunity came along, we are open to it. Those opportunities are not easy to find.”
The company has majority ownership in all but two hotels—in Beverly Hills, California, and in Paris. Where it owns less than 50%, it contractually retains management.
Investing in improvements
The limited development allows Peninsula to focus on existing hotels, Kwok said.
“We invest heavily in improvements,” he said. “That is why we are spending $58 million on the renovation of our Hong Kong property, where we are unveiling a new generation of room product with improved technology. Our willingness to invest is well known. And we generally tend to invest at an earlier juncture than others are willing.”
The Paris hotel is a conversion of a historical building near the Arc de Triomphe, Kwok said.
“The inside has been gutted and it is a major project redoing a historic building in the center of Paris,” he said.
He added: “Our philosophy is that we hope that we have built a hotel that reflects the local culture and design and provides a local feeling. You can really feel that in Tokyo and Shanghai—you really get the experience of feeling the place. The Paris hotel has been designed to be in sympathy with the building it occupies and with Paris.”
Hong Kong enhancement
The renovation of the Hong Kong hotel included what the company calls “revolutionary in-room technology” that features interactive digital bedside and desk tablets pre-set in one of five languages. The tablets control all in-room functions, as well as restaurant menus, hotel services, the new “PenCities” virtual city guide and personalized streaming TV and radio channels.
An entertainment center features a 46-inch, flat-screen LED television with an attached Blu-ray player. Fifty-five-inch models are available in suites.
Unlike many luxury properties, the Peninsula Hong Kong offers complimentary Wi-Fi as well as free global calls via VoIP.
Peninsula Moments: New Ad Campaign
“Peninsula Moments,” a global brand campaign featuring video and photography, was launched recently, designed to go “behind the scenes” to showcase memories created by staff members.
The campaign centers around a series of short videos—one for the overall brand and one for each property. They were produced by Ridley Scott Associates (which also produced many blockbuster Hollywood films) and are being released at three-week intervals. The purpose of the videos, Kwok said, “is to stimulate interest in our company and to remind people that we can create special experiences for our guests.”