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  • DBMS Global

Location, talent, cosmopolitanism – why Hong Kong spawned luxury hotel chains

It may be difficult to imagine now, but when The Peninsula hotel opened in Hong Kong, in 1928, it was laughed off as a white elephant in which nobody would stay. So recalls the late Lawrence Kadoorie, son of the hotel’s founder, Elly Kadoorie, in archive footage belonging to the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels company.

Despite The Pen having been designed as “the finest hotel east of Suez”, as far as the well-heeled international passengers disembarking from ships in the harbour were concerned, “the Kowloon side certainly did not have much prestige”, adds Lawrence Kadoorie.

The Peninsula, of course, proved those naysayers wrong, and its name has gone on to become one of the most recognised hotel brands in the world. As have others that were born in Hong Kong, or now call the city home.

The first overseas Peninsula outpost opened in the Philippines in 1976, and there are now 10 hotels bearing the name in Asia, Europe and the United States. Next year will see Peninsulas open in London, England, and Istanbul, Turkey.

Another Hong Kong hotel to have spawned a successful international chain is The Mandarin, which opened on the Central waterfront in 1963. Eleven years later, as part of a wider expansion, the owners bought The Oriental hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, and the Mandarin Oriental brand was born.

“It was love at first sight, a veritable coup de foudre,” the late Giorgio Berlingieri, then owner of The Oriental, wrote in his memoirs. “They were expanding the Mandarin into the leading international hotel chain in Southeast Asia, and The Oriental matched their requirements for Thailand. Here was the partner we had been searching for.”


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