HONG KONG -- Rival grandes dames of the Kowloon hotel scene, the
Peninsula Hong Kong and the Inter-Continental Hong Kong, have
undertaken renovation and improvement efforts to hone their already
Both the Peninsula, the Kowloon address of choice since 1928 for
the well-heeled, and the Inter-Continental, the favorite haunt of
the fashion set since its days as the Regent Hong Kong, were hit
hard by the post-Sept. 11 travel downturn, relying as they do on
Americans for 29% and 50% of reservations, respectively.
To fill the gap, Peninsula general manager Peter Borer and his
staff initially turned to the local Hong Kong market, followed by
China, Taiwan and Japan, but now are once again marketing
aggressively to U.S. agents and consumers.
"We hope this new year will bring long-haul visitors back --
once confidence has been restored," he said.
Across Salisbury Road, the Inter-Continental also plans to court
more European, Chinese and Southeast Asian bookings, but the U.S.
"remains extremely important," said spokeswoman Carole Klein.
"However, there has been an undeniably big drop in bookings,"
she said, despite the hotel's established popularity with business
travelers from the fashion and toy industries, as well as its
growing appeal to tourists on pre- and post-cruise visits to Hong
Kong -- all of whom proved hardier travelers than land-only
Same view, much ado
Meanwhile, management at the hotel, which became an
Inter-Continental property last June, did spot one silver lining in
the reservations cloud.
"We knew business levels would be down initially in 2002, so we
took the opportunity to reinvigorate our renovations program,"
The 20-year-old property's 514 rooms and suites -- two-thirds of
which face scenic Victoria Harbor -- last underwent an overhaul in
1997; this year's redecoration will begin in spring, with
completion by October. "We'll hopefully be ready when bookings
begin to rebound."
On tap for completion this winter was a lobby retrofit and a new
mezzanine-level Club Inter-Continental lounge in the former Club
Shanghai space, offering breakfast and snacks and cocktails as well
as business services for guests in Executive Floor rooms.
And famed on-site French restaurant Plume closed Jan. 1 to
undergo a complete revamp and rebrand, with a grand reopening this
fall; the Inter-Continental reportedly is dotting the i's on deals
to bring internationally recognized restaurant brands into both the
Plume space and the Steak House Bar & Grill.
Already operational is the Inter-Continental's refurbished spa,
redesigned by a local "feng shui" master to adhere to traditional
Chinese environmental design principles.
The facility -- with treatment rooms for singles and couples --
now offers Chinese-inspired herbal wraps and massage, a jet-lag
therapy program and traditional spa amenities to overnight and day
"Day visitors can check in as guests and enjoy access to all
facilities for one day, including their own room," noted Klein.
Learn as you go
For its part, the Peninsula -- which last expanded in 1994 with
construction of a 30-story tower that added 132 accommodations --
also is upgrading amenities.
In the hotel's latest improvement, all its rooms and suites --
which already boast satellite television, DVD players and silent
fax machines -- have been outfitted with free broadband Internet
"It's just part of the Peninsula's commitment to our customers,"
said general manager Borer, noting that the hotel also is expanding
its 5-year-old Peninsula Academy educational program.
Academy offerings, divided into the Chinese Cultural Experience,
the Lifestyle Experience and the Culinary Experience, became
available on an a la carte basis last August.
Existing courses range from Chinese interest -- as tai chi,
dim-sum cooking and tea appreciation classes -- to hotel
operations, luxury shopping by Rolls Royce and private cooking
lessons with hotel chefs.
"The a la carte arrangement allows guests to do an hour of
painting, feng shui or Chinese cooking as their time or interest
allows," said Borer.
This year, the Academy launches a luggage-packing course,
developed in conjunction with French design house Louis Vuitton,
that also explores the history and manufacture of suitcases.
The new course is just the first of more joint presentations to
come, Borer noted. "We're looking for other partners to broaden the
scope of the Academy product."
Peninsula Academy courses are bookable and commissionable to
agents at the hotel's standard 10% rate.
To book the Peninsula, call Leading Hotels of the World at (800)
223-6800; for more information, visit www.peninsula.com on
To reserve the Inter-Continental, call (888) 567-8725; for more
information, go to www.hongkong-ic.interconti.com.