Features

Snapshot: 1897, Kempinski: from wine merchants to luxury hoteliers

1 Jul 2017 by Valerian Ho

The story of venerable hotel group Kempinski began in Berlin in 1897 with the vision of one man: Berthold Kempinski. A bold entrepreneur with an adventurous approach to hospitality, he owned a wine merchant and delicatessen restaurant, and introduced the concept of full- or half-portion dishes served with wine by the glass – a culinary revolution at the time.

Berthold died in 1910, but his son-in-law expanded the company until it boasted wine stores and restaurants in Amsterdam, London and New York. In 1928, Haus Vaterland in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz blazed a new trail in entertainment dining, with 12 restaurants offering cuisine and décor from a dozen different countries.

Kempinski opened its first hotel in 1932, the Kempinski Hotel Schloss Marquardt, located at Lake Schleinitz in Brandenburg, around 50km from Berlin. The former manor house stood in exquisite parkland and blended the Hollywood-influenced glamour of the era along with timeless European elegance. It had 24 guestrooms and offered guests a choice of fine-dining restaurants, tea lounges, sophisticated wine bars and peaceful terraces overlooking the lake, as well as bathing facilities – it soon became popular with wealthy Berliners looking to escape from the city.

In 1957 the hotel group opened the Atlantic Hotel on Lake Alster in Hamburg, a landmark property that remains one of the city’s great heritage hotels today.

Expansion came in 1970 through a 50 per cent partnership with Lufthansa whereby Kempinski took over management of Munich’s Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. In 1977, the company changed its name from the cumbersome Kempinski Hotelbetriebs-Aktiengesellschaft to the simpler Kempinski AG, and when in 1985 Lufthansa acquired shares in Kempinski AG, this finally enabled the hotel company to operate Kempinski hotels abroad.

The first Kempinski to open in Asia was the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center in 1992. This year therefore marks the 25th anniversary of Kempinski’s operations in China, and as part of that the Beijing property began a major renovation in January. The group continues to expand into new destinations: in June it became the first luxury hotel brand in Cuba when it opened the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana.

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