Looks Like New

31 May 2012

As travellers’ expectations continue to rise, luxury hotels around the region are opting for major makeovers to stay competitive, writes Claire Lin

All hotels, no matter how good, face the same problem – the constant struggle to maintain their appeal. This is especially true in today’s world, where travellers constantly demand greater luxury, better connectivity and more tailored service. Even with an unrivalled location, a hotel must work relentlessly to keep customers coming back. The pressure to keep up with the competition is especially intense in major cities where development is rampant.

To ensure competitiveness, many well-established players have chosen to update their appearance and facilities through extensive renovation. Their methods of execution often differ: some refurbishment projects are phased to allow their hotels to keep doors open, while others simply stop operating altogether for a complete overhaul. Following is a selection of regional properties that use different routes to the same end.

Kerry Hotel Beijing

Formerly known as the Kerry Centre Hotel Beijing, this venerable Shangri-La Hotel Group property underwent a RMB100 million (US$15.8 million) renovation last year. This is the second hotel under the “Kerry” brand in China (its sister property in Shanghai opened in February 2011). The choice of name represents a new brand image that reflects the spirit of the modern traveller – energetic yet casual, flexible and friendly.

The Kerry Hotel Beijing is a result of cautious and low-key renovation. It remained open during the whole process, introducing a polished look not too drastically different from the old to ensure a sense of familiarity among its regulars. There is a new lobby, a new executive level complete with suites and a new lounge, a large banquet hall and two new restaurants, Kerry’s Kitchen & Kerry’s Pantry, created by two well-known Japanese interior design companies – SuperPotato and Salt. The popular bar, Centro, has also been given a facelift and expanded to include a terrace.

A crystal chandelier designed by Lasvit greets guests in the lobby, and the front desk has adopted a paperless registration process. White-veined marble flooring, carpets with abstract patterns and contemporary ink paintings add brightness and modernity. The renovation has moved the hotel from a more conservative design typical of a business hotel, to one that stresses modesty and elegance – bold artistic touches have been introduced with a selection of international modern art.

Rates: Internet rates for an executive suite start from RMB2,450 (US$387). www.thekerryhotels.com

Courtyard by Marriott Shanghai Pudong

This hotel’s renovation took from June to November 2011 to complete, at a cost of RMB30 million (US$4.7 million). The result was 142 brand-new rooms, bringing the total to 323 guestrooms. The main aim of the renovation was the refurbishment of more than 100 rooms from the 22nd to 26th floors, and the enlargement of 42 executive suites on the top 27th and 28th floors. The new design took into account the increasing number of young corporate customers, and thus focused on simplicity. A cheerful green was chosen as the base colour to pair with light wooden textures, while windows have been dressed with louvred slats rather than curtains, to accentuate the overall modern and minimalistic feel.

The presidential and courtyard suites have also all been redesigned, while the executive lounge on the 16th floor was completely refurbished and is now a relaxing space with a high-tech open kitchen and a seating capacity of 70 people.

Rates: Internet rates for an executive suite start from RMB1,488 (US$235). www.courtyardshanghai.com


New World Dalian Hotel

Opened in mid-2009, this 420-room hotel stands in the midst of Dalian’s financial and commercial centre. As part of its renovations it moved its executive lounge to a higher floor and gave it a major overhaul. Occupying a 300 sqm area, the lounge now features a number of living rooms, a library, a buffet and a dining area, creating a homely atmosphere with dark-wood furnishings and genuine leather sofas. Close by is a new executive level with 73 executive rooms and suites. The benefits of the new lounge location are threefold: greater convenience; a feeling of exclusivity; and you can now enjoy a birds-eye view of the city from the 22nd floor.

The old executive lounge space now caters for a variety of events needs – a 300 sqm multipurpose conference area is equipped with round tables able to sit 90 people, and includes a reception area, independent conference rooms, a movable buffet, drink-serving stations and a large chill-out room. Designed by the same Japanese company that created the executive lounge, its wooden walls and abstract artwork decorations provide a natural touch.

Rates: Internet rates for an executive suite start from RMB1,300 (US$205). www.dalian.newworldhotels.com

Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan

Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan was the city’s first five-star hotel (it opened in 1999). Located in the centre of the Hankou financial district, it began a comprehensive transformation in 2009 and work was finally completed last year. The hotel now feels like an entirely new property from the driveway to the guestrooms. A variety of restaurants, including Café Wu, Chinese restaurant Shang Palace and Tori-ji – the first dedicated yakitori restaurant in Wuhan – all offer new dining options. 

The hotel’s 442 newly refurnished guestrooms are spacious – superior rooms start from 36 sqm and deluxe rooms from 86 sqm – and the conference rooms are available in three sizes, accommodating groups of six, 10 or 14. Shang Palace boasts an eight-metre-high ceiling, while the Lobby Lounge features a large bay window.

Rates: Internet rates for Horizon Club suites start from RMB1,103 (US$174). www.shangri-la.com


Metropark Hotel Wanchai, Hong Kong

Situated in the heart of one of Hong Kong’s top shopping and entertainment districts, and within 10 minutes’ walk of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Centre, this bustling business hotel has just completed a renovation of its executive level in order to meet the increasing demands for new facilities and value-added services. The hotel has updated 48 executive rooms and added 15 new Executive Spacious rooms, but equipment upgrades are the most noticeable change, including the addition of a 42-inch flatscreen TV, a large safe with a built-in charging socket and a separate meeting area complete with a sofa and work desk.

Extra services for executive guests now include free minibars, a complimentary drink at the lobby lounge Parlour, breakfast buffet, and evening cocktails at Le Chef, the loft restaurant that opened last year.

Rates: Internet rates start from HK$1,220 (US$157). www.metroparkhotelwanchai.com


Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa

This historic hotel officially joined the Hilton Group in October 2003. Located on Phuket’s Karon Beach inside a 30-hectare tropical garden, it offers excellent facilities and plenty of space for large-scale events such as the East Asia Summit. However, it has not rested on its laurels – last year it underwent a renovation worth several million US dollars, closing one of the seven main buildings to allow refurbishment of 128 of its 664 guestrooms, which are spread out through three wings: the Lotus, the Andaman and the Saitong.

The newly redesigned and refurnished rooms are categorised as Deluxe Plus rooms and are located in Andaman Wing B. New beds, sofas and widescreen TVs have been added, but the glass bathroom is the biggest change. The dining and pool areas also went through a renewal, with the newly finished Ocean Beach Club built around the pool and surrounded by palm trees.

Rates: Internet rates for a Deluxe Plus room start from THB5,800 (US$185). www.phuket-arcadia.hilton.com


Park Hyatt Sydney

After more than 20 years of success and glamour, the iconic Park Hyatt Sydney needed a fresh injection of modernity. The hotel’s Japanese owner decided that a simple facelift was not what was required, so last year the hotel was temporarily closed down while a multimillion-dollar project took place, resulting in a comprehensive transformation of the property.

The reopening, in February this year, was one of the city’s major events. The exterior remains the same, but inside there has been a dramatic change. Locally sourced sandstone and Australian timbers were used to revamp the interior, and a whole new rooftop level has been added to the hotel to house three luxurious suites with stunning panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House and harbour.

The new hotel design brings alive a residential style and a sense of understated luxury – Australian sculptors, painters and photographers were commissioned to create artworks that reflect the characteristics of Circular Quay, the hotel’s elite location.

All 155 guestrooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows that open onto private balconies furnished with custom designed outdoor furniture. Australian design company BARstudio was commissioned to give the new guestrooms a stylish and intimate feel, using wooden textures and neutral hues, and creating open-plan bathrooms compartmentalised by see-through glass. The transformation also means brand-new dining options, with all the restaurants renamed following Hyatt hotel traditions. 

Rates: Internet rates start from A$745 (US$740). www.sydney.park.hyatt.com

Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa

Located on Australia’s Gold Coast, this 20-year-old resort is an important local landmark. It reopened in October last year after a comprehensive A$20 million (US$19.7 million) renovation, making an impressive comeback with its brand-new look. The transformation involved refurbishment of all 329 guestrooms, including the presidential suites, and a revamp of communal areas such as the main entrance and lobby, the coral reef pool and conference facilities.

The new-look guestrooms feature light-red, white and beige hues, reminiscent of Queensland’s coastal characteristics. The beloved coral reef pool, which allows guests to swim with tropical fish, has been kept but renewed and updated with even more colourful fish.

A wellness centre, Lattouf Hair and Day Spa, a gym and a 24-hour open chill-out zone with wifi connection are among the newly added facilities. New additions to the dining facilities are Java Plus, a café good for a quick bite, and Citrique, an interactive all-day restaurant featuring an open kitchen and providing eight international cuisines.

Rates: Internet rates start from A$230 (US$228). www.marriott.com.au

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