In the years preceding the Grand Hyatt Taipei's silver anniversary, the property had perhaps lost some of its luster.
But as the hotel prepares to commemorate its 25th anniversary in September, it's marking its official relaunch this month, putting the finishing touches on a $100 million, top-to-bottom renovation aimed at maintaining its position as one of the city's top hotels for meetings and conventions while also attracting more leisure travelers. During my stay at the property last month, I got a look at how the renovation was proceeding.
'An accelerated process'
Part of a slate of Grand Hyatts and Park Hyatts opened by the hotelier throughout Asia during the late '80s and early '90s, the Grand Hyatt Taipei quickly became a major player in the Taiwanese capital's burgeoning hotel market, said General Manager Kai Speth.
The Premium Business Class cabin aboard China Airlines’ 777.
Carrier's nonstop comforts
I made the 16-hour flight to Taipei aboard China Airlines' recently launched nonstop service from New York Kennedy, in the Premium Business Class section of one of the carrier's four new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Read More
But as the years went on, new players began entering the Taipei hotel market, which "had somewhat stagnated," he said.
Properties such as the W Taipei, which opened in 2011, and the Le Meridien Taipei, which opened in 2010, "triggered an accelerated process" of renovation for the Grand Hyatt and competitors such as the Regent Taipei and Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Speth said.
And motivation went beyond the local competition: Given Taipei's status as a hub for international commerce, customers "don't just compare you to your competitor in town but to their experiences in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai," Speth said. "So it's also important for us to somewhat match those expectations of travelers who see these markets."
During my visit, display cases in the enormous lobby's Baguette shop contained macarons, chocolates and other goods from the hotel's recently opened in-house bakery and confectioner, one of several changes on the culinary front.
According to Speth, the property's food-and-beverage operations are "very much driven not only by the hotel guests but the local community," since the Grand Hyatt has long been a favored venue for special events such as weddings, graduation parties and other celebrations, and its eight restaurants are frequented by the city's lunch and dinner crowds.
Earning praise from locals and guests alike, said Speth, is Yun Jin, the hotel's newest dining option, which offers a menu inspired by the cuisines of Taiwan and several regions of China.
Whereas Yun Jin's predecessor, Shanghai Court, offered a take on cuisine from one region, "with Yun Jin we now have a restaurant that's going to allow us to bring in different regions of China if we want to; we can easily swap out the various regions, we can put more emphasis on one region and less emphasis on another, and as long as we stay authentic with the food that we serve that will work," Speth said.
Highlights during lunch included scallion pancakes and braised pork belly with fermented wine sauce.
Changes are also in the works for the Cafe buffet restaurant, which will get a tandoor oven to prepare the Indian cuisine it's adding to its offerings; the Cheers bar and pub, set for a face-lift; and the Bel Air restaurant, a Continental venue that will become a steakhouse.
Recently completed were renovations to the hotel's 853 rooms. A two-year process, the "extreme makeovers," as Speth characterized them, were designed to bring accommodations "to more of a 21st century experience and provide the traveler with a real cozy, homey environment that's also conducive to working."
My 645-square-foot Grand Suite with plush, king-size bed lived up to those goals: The workspace's large, glass-topped desk and the room's fast, reliable WiFi (complimentary, as with all Hyatts as of February) ensured productivity, while the living area's comfy foldout couch and 47-inch HD TV proved ideal for winding down. And the hotel surpassed "homey" with the completely renovated marble bathroom, stocked with Salvatore Ferragamo products and featuring a walk-in shower (with handheld and rainfall showerheads) and a tub.
The Grand Hyatt Taipei is among several Grand Hyatt properties in Asia that are undergoing or have recently completed renovations, all in an effort to "stay current with our guests' evolving needs as well as the evolving technology," according to Carina Chorengel, senior vice president of brand and commercial strategy for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts Asia/Pacific.
The Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, a year older than the Taipei property, has completed upgrades to its Grand Club and Grand Ballroom, and guestroom renovations are expected to continue throughout the year, Chorengel said. Grand Hyatts in Bangkok, Shanghai and Beijing recently completed guestroom renovations, while the Singapore location's events spaces have undergone a complete redo.
With its own renovations winding down, the Grand Hyatt Taipei is turning its attention toward leisure travelers: Its three-night Tempting Taipei package, for instance, includes Grand Room accommodations, a guided tour of Yangmingshan National Park and tickets to the top of the adjacent Taipei 101 tower, at one time designated the world's tallest building. Priced at $1,625 for two, the package is available through Aug. 31.
For more information, visit http://taipei.grand.hyatt.com.