HONG KONG The historical Peninsula Hong Kong, consistently rated
one of the top hotels in the world by such publications as Travel
& Leisure, Zagat and Conde Naste Traveler, is finding ways to
change with the times, while retaining its old-world elegance,
charm and decorum.
Proving that it was not stuck in its illustrious past, the
Peninsula, in the 1990s, topped its new tower with the ultrahip
Philippe Starck-designed Felix restaurant and bar, the China
Clipper Lounge and twin helicopter pads.
Now, it is expanding on its traditional FIT market and wooing
small and medium-size meetings and incentives groups from the
United States. The growth in business on mainland China has put
Hong Kong hotels in a position to capitalize on the trend, and the
Peninsula’s meeting business has quadrupled since March.
“Dealing with the Chinese is difficult,” said Arthur Kiong,
director of marketing. “Instead of going to China directly,
companies around the world are establishing regional offices here.
The more senior [corporate] boys are coming out for a firsthand
look. There is a need for them to do meetings, and they want to do
them properly. There is an issue of protocol.”
The Peninsula’s “8 to 80” program for small and medium-size
groups adheres to the hotel’s traditions of opulent accommodations,
personal service and cultural experiences, introducing guests to
its elaborate Academy program, in which it offers a variety of
Chinese cultural experiences cuisine, teas, feng shui and tai chi,
to name a few.
“Here, they are not herded around wearing badges,” Kiong said.
“Most of the dialogue is about relationship-building with local
operations. They learn about the culture and get a feel for what is
going on in China. There is always a structural component to
meetings, but at the end of the day, it is about
The Peninsula’s “8 to 80” program accommodates private groups at
several venues, including the Garden Suite, the Marco Polo Suite
and the West Wing, which are dedicated to particular groups for the
duration of their stays. Rates average approximately $300 per
person, per night, including food and all services.
“It’s like meeting in someone’s home,” Kiong said. “Everybody is
on the same wing, and it gives them the feeling they have taken
over the whole hotel.”
Opened in 1928, the Peninsula closed its doors on Christmas Day
1941, when the building became the site of the surrender of Hong
Kong by the British to the Japanese invasion force. After the
surrender of the Japanese in 1945, it was handed back to the
British and reopened as the Peninsula in 1946.
The hotel’s most recent modernization and expansion was in 1994
when the new 30-story tower added 132 rooms and suites, 10 floors
of office space and shops, a swimming pool, a sun terrace, a spa, a
business center and banquet and meeting rooms.
When I stayed at the Peninsula with a small group several months
ago before “8 to 80” was implemented, the accommodations, service,
cuisine and the Peninsula Academy were something to behold.
My first impression was how the Peninsula transports its guests
(the ones who are wiling to pay for it) to and from the airport and
wherever else they wish to go: A fleet of Rolls Royces stand ready
at the hotel’s grand entrance, and helicopters will pick up and
deliver guests on the rooftop of the 30-story tower.
Dining & Entertainment
The Peninsula hotel has six restaurants, including Gaddi’s
(French), the Verandah (continental), Chesa (Swiss), Spring Moon
(authentic Cantonese) and Imasa (Japanese).
At the first-floor bar, drinks are served and a piano player
entertains from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. In the soaring, columned lobby,
where food is served all day, the afternoon tea with classical
music is legendary.
Felix, on the 28th floor, dressed in wood, glass and metal,
flaunts its hipness in several bars, including a discotheque, and
has spectacular views of Hong Kong. During my visit, a patron in
the bar told me I must see the women’s restroom, which required
that I stand in line for five minutes, but it was worth it. With
windows overlooking Hong Kong, the restroom features a huge
center-island, granite-slab wash basin with water trickling down
the center more an avant-garde work of art than a place to get rid
The 300 rooms and suites in European decor with Asian influences
range from 460 to 500 square feet for rooms and 944 square feet to
4,111 square feet for suites. Tower rooms have unobstructed harbor
and city views and can be reached through dedicated lifts from the
Marble bathrooms have two wash basins, large soaking tubs and
All units have king-size beds and every conceivable electronic
amenity, including color televisions with satellite reception,
laser disc/CD players, headphones, silent fax machines, several
telephones, computerized controls for the drapes, air-conditioning,
heating and lighting. Service is superb when the valet button is
pressed. A shoe butler sees to it that shoes are cleaned, polished
and returned with the morning newspaper.
My 21st-floor, 1,200-square-foot harborview suite included a
foyer with a living room, a den, a bedroom and two marble
bathrooms. Furnished with red-and-gold brocade upholstery and
decorated with Asian pottery and art, the suite had a
floor-to-ceiling glass wall with unobstructed harbor and Hong Kong
The expansive marble bathroom had an enormous Jacuzzi, where I
giddily soaked late at night while gazing out at the indescribable
harbor and city views.
Located in the heart of Kowloon’s business and shopping
district, the Peninsula is within walking distance of mass transit
and the Star Ferry, and across the street from the Hong Kong
Cultural Centre and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
Room rates range from $384 for a superior room to $5,000 for the
Peninsula suite. Peninsula Academy courses are commissionable.
Call 800-223-6800. Web site: www.peninsula.com.
The Peninsula Academy
The Academy teaches Chinese culture, cuisine, customs and
Culinary Experience teaches cooking in English in the restaurant
kitchens, including spa cuisine, pastries, produce and Kaiseki.
Chinese Cultural Experience is a four-day package beginning with
a Rolls-Royce ride from the airport and dinner in Spring Moon. In
the mornings participants take a tai chi lesson on the spa sun
terrace, eat breakfast and receive a demonstration of dim sum
techniques. Later, an expert explains ancient Chinese tea-drinking
procedures. A Peninsula chef then leads a tour of a food
The feng shui segment explains how buildings can be assessed in
terms of water, wind and earth alignment. A medicine practitioner
will explain how herbs, plants and roots are used to cure
The Peninsula Lifestyle is a three-day package dedicated to the
art of gracious living, including dinner in the trendsetting Felix
restaurant, beauty treatments at Clarins, a shopping trip in a
vintage Rolls Royce, a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour,
English-style afternoon tea and fine dining at Gaddi’s.
A package rate starts at $2,130 per person for a four-night
program. All Academy programs are available a la carte, and priced
separately. Call 011-852-2315-3293 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.