Despite launching its first U.S. property in Miami this year, Hong Kong-based Swire Hotels will continue to expand its reach with measured growth while still owning and operating almost all of its properties.
NEW YORK—After successfully launching the company’s first U.S. property earlier this year, Swire Hotels has reached its 10-year anniversary with six owned properties, one pipeline project and is positioned at an appropriate level of growth, according to Brian Williams, the company’s managing director.
The Hong Kong-based company, which is a subsidiary of Swire Properties, operates two luxury brands—The House Collective and East Hotels—and recently opened its first U.S. property in Miami, the 352-room East, Miami. While Swire executives would like to add more U.S. properties to the company’s portfolio in the future, “there is no rush,” according to Williams. The only publicly announced hotel in Swire’s pipeline is a House Collective hotel in Shanghai, which is scheduled to open in 2017.
Swire’s goal was to create a hotel division “that would focus on the creative—including music, fashion, art and design,” Williams said. “Our dream was to create hotels where the CEO would stay at the conference hotel and then check-in to our hotel with their spouse for a weekend.”
Brian Williams, Swire Hotels
Swire currently operates The Opposite House in Beijing, The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Temple House in Chengdu, China, and East Hotels in Hong Kong, Beijing and Miami, which all benefit from Swire’s affiliation with Preferred Hotels and Resorts for marketing and distribution. Swire also manages a hotel in Hong Kong called The Headland, which is owned by international airline Cathay Pacific.
Williams said the luxury market is changing but there is still a place for traditional hotels. He added that Swire has found a compromise between traditional and modern.
“Our Chengdu hotel is in a 300-year-old deconsecrated temple but has many modern elements,” he said.
While both Swire brands are in the luxury category, Williams said House hotels are smaller and at the very top end of the market while East hotels are larger and more lifestyle-oriented. Expansion of either brand depends on the market being considered.
“Ideally we would have one of each in a city as we do in Hong Kong and Beijing,” Williams said, adding that the House Collective portfolio earned its name because “one of our directors thought ‘collective’ was a more memorable word than ‘collection.’”
Williams said Swire views its expansion plans differently than other hotel brands.
“We have a different model and are not like the big brands,” he said. “We own and operate our assets and intend to continue doing that. That allows us to keep a close eye on all the hotels.
“We are not hell-bent on expansion. We want to open them right and keep them right. We don’t have legions of vice presidents stamping our brand name on lots of projects. Hospitality is not the core business for our parent company.”
Swire’s entry into Miami
The opening of the East, Miami, is typical of Swire’s approach to distinguishing elements at its hotels, Williams said. The property features the Sugar rooftop bar and the Quinto La Huella restaurant, which is operated in collaboration with a celebrity chef from Uruguay.
“Sugar is a nod to our Asian roots and is sort of a Balinese garden with Asian-style tapas,” he said. “There are always people queuing up to get into it. It is a demonstration of the expertise we aim for in (food and beverage).”
Williams said Miami was chosen to launch Swire’s first U.S. property because the company has 30 years of experience working in the city on real estate developments.
“We know the city and how it works,” he said.
East, Miami is part of Brickell City Centre, a mixed-use development that includes 500,000 square feet of open-air shopping, a dine-in theater and a three-level food court.