3 (Hotels) for the Road in Hong Kong
By William Ng
April 12, 2012
In Hong Kong, there is no shortage of hotels that suit a broad range of budgets and needs for meetings and incentive groups as well as business travelers. Its well-cultivated, dynamic hotel market has sprouted hotels from deluxe properties with unique vantages, to strategically located ones offering ultimate convenience, to headquarters hotels that symbiotically exist with major convention venues.
Marriott Hong Kong SkyCity
The first thing that springs to mind about the Marriott Hong Kong SkyCity is that it is no airport hotel. And its executive team will make certain of that notion. “We don’t consider ourself an airport hotel but rather a property that’s close to the airport,” says Peter Sih, director of sales and marketing, of the Marriott that’s located on the grounds of Hong Kong International Airport. “You don’t expect an airport hotel to have our kind of meeting space.”
A full-fledged hotel with five dining options, a golf course, and a spa that would feel right at home at a resort, the Marriott SkyCity boasts nearly 14,000 square feet of modern meeting and banquet space—all of it housed in a separate building but directly connected for attendees via an underground walkway. The centerpiece is a 6,360-square-foot pillarless ballroom with 17-foot-high ceilings and a divisibility of three.
The Marriott has 658 richly appointed guest rooms featuring a dark-wood motif and 37- to 42-inch flat-screen TVs, executive work desks, and oversized bathrooms with deluxe-quality vanities and fixtures. The hotel works side by side with the AsiaWorld-Expo convention complex, which consists of a dedicated 14,000-seat arena used for concerts (past acts include Eric Clapton and Christina Aguilera), 10 exhibition halls totaling 753,500 square feet of exhibit space, and two other conference/banquet venues fitting several thousand delegates each. Those who stay at the Marriott have a direct path to AsiaWorld-Expo via a one-minute foot bridge.
The Marriott is also a very American property. Sih notes that 40 percent of the hotel’s guests are business travelers from the United States who feel at home with the Marriott brand. He adds that the hotel appeals to groups in two predominant ways: ) They can get “in and out” by meeting close to the airport and 2) potentially save up to 30 percent on costs by meeting outside the city, where rates are lower.
But groups staying longer than those in-and-out confabs would do well knowing that the Marriott, while outside the city, is only 45 minutes from Hong Kong’s central district. The hotel has a 15-minute shuttle service to the Airport Express line of Hong Kong’s subway system (called MTR), which promptly zips guests into the city center on an efficient 28-minute transfer. For delegates looking for pre- or post-meeting or off-hours entertainment, the Airport Express also connects with the MTR line to Hong Kong Disneyland as well as the CityGate outlet shopping center.
The Marriott’s shuttle service, meanwhile, gets conventioneers and business travelers close enough to connect with the panoramic cable car located in Tung Chung that lifts them up to the Ngong Ping 360 cultural attraction on Lantau Island. Ngong Ping 360 has the world’s tallest seated bronze Buddha statue and a popular monastery. Sih says the Marriott is strategically located to this and other attractions on Lantau Island, which are getting a bigger promotional spotlight by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
While some groups prefer a serene environment outside the city for a meeting, others prefer to be thrown into the thick of things. That’s where the Eaton Smart comes in.
Operated by the Langham Hospitality Group—known for the Langham Hotels brand—the 465-room Eaton Smart is a sterling example of an urban concept hotel. On Nathan Road, the largest artery in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, the hotel’s location puts groups smack dab in the middle of one of the city’s largest vibrant shopping areas, while a seven-minute walk reaches the MTR at the Jordan station, which takes delegates cross-harbor and into Hong Kong’s central district in 15 minutes.
“Guests love the proximity [of our hotel] to the Temple and Jade Street markets,” says Blondie Yeung, Eaton Smart’s director of communications, of the vendor-stall shopping areas abutting Nathan Road. It’s one of the selling points that have led to one-quarter of the hotel’s business being from U.S. groups and business travelers. “MICE is big for our hotel,” says Yeung’s colleague, Erica Chan, assistant public relations manager.
The hotel has three ballrooms: The Diamond Ballroom is over 9,200 square feet and divisble by two, the Jade Ballroom is over 2,500 square feet, while the Pearl Ballroom is over 2,200 square feet and divisible by two. There are three additional function rooms, making the Eaton Smart perfect for midsize groups. Plus, an 11,000-square-foot garden on the 11th floor can be used as an event space. Chan says the hotel’s sweet spot for groups is 100 to 150 delegates, and all groups get assistance from an on-staff event coordinator while planners get a complimentary on-site office.
Walking into the lobby and reception area of the Eaton Smart, which was reimagined upon the hotel’s rebranding to its current guise in 2010, meeting attendees and other guests alike get a clear sense of the urban-style property’s three-pronged philosophy of comfort, convenience, and connectivity. The lobby is awash in natural light--its architectural lines simple and unfettered--and is connected to most of the hotel’s dining outlets, including the T Garden, which is a cozy alfresco oasis just mere steps away from the hustle and bustle of Nathan Road, and Metro Buffet & Grill, which serves full western and Asian breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets.
What also makes Eaton Smart a destination is its main restaurant, which is a second location of Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant Yat Tung Heen, serving a hugely popular dim sum lunch. The Yagura, a Japanese restaurant, meanwhile, offers izakaya-style dishes and a private dining room for groups up to 60 persons.
Yeung notes that the hotel’s Club rooms, which make up one of Eaton Smart’s four room types, were renovated two years ago. The slightly smaller Deluxe rooms feature an earthy color palette marked by dark woods and are equipped with wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, iHome alarm clock radios, beds with plush luxury duvets and feather pillows, and compact bathrooms with rain showers. The rooms are cozy but smartly laid out, with fully separated living areas. While Yeung acknowledges the rooms are smaller than western standards, she remarks, “We make effective use of space in the rooms.”
In another nod to Eaton Smart’s connectivity motto, the guest rooms, as well as all other parts of the hotel, including the five meeting spaces, six restaurants and bar, fitness center, rooftop swimming pool, and all public areas, were turned into free Wi-Fi hot spots at the beginning of March.
Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong
Planted firmly next to the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is the five-star Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, an accommodations staple in the bustling Wanchai commercial area that’s located a stone’s throw away from the city’s central business district. The 825-room property gives guests a bird’s-eye perspective of the HKCEC and breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon on the other side—sure to make attendees’ stays unforgettable.
The Renaissance shares HKCEC headquarters-hotel duties with one other property and thus functions primarily as a business hotel. “We’re about 80 percent business and 20 percent leisure,” notes Meanne Dizerens-Lau, the hotel’s director of communications, during a property tour with Chloe Ho, marketing coordinator. And, working with the HKCEC, “our MICE business is international,” says Dizerens-Lau, adding, “we get groups of 100 to 200 delegates usually.”
The guest rooms of the hotel fall unofficially into two categories: the 260 12th-to-20th-floor accommodations that were introduced in 2008 and the newer 21st-to-39th-floor rooms that went live in 2010 and reflect Marriott’s initiative with Renaissance as a lifestyle brand. The newer abodes have a minimalistic but elegant theme (“contemporary chic,” according to Renaissance collateral), with hardwood floors and beige finishes. They feature 37-inch LCD TVs, plush bedding, iPod docking stations, in-room Wi-Fi, and high-end bathrooms with sliding doors.
Not that the older guest rooms are to be shortchanged out of recognition, as they remain modern by today’s standards. Dizerens-Lau says that, despite the move toward being a lifestyle hotel, the property’s owner has decided to keep the older room inventory as is.
But last August, the Renaissance completed a renovation of its full complement of meeting spaces, located in the lower lobby, mezzanine, and eighth floor and totaling 14,000 square feet. They are led by the Oasis and Concord rooms. The smaller Oasis Room can hold 250 attendees for receptions and has a glass ceiling to give them a nice visual perspective of Hong Kong. The pillarless Concord Room can host 700 delegates. Both rooms can be combined to serve functions with up to 950 attendees.
The rooms are described as “modern, artistic, and elegant,” with gold and burgundy decorative effects. Glittering, modern chandeliers and LED lighting with twelve different combinations are abetted by soft-burgundy and purple carpeting.The rooms, which feature built-in projectors and LCD screens, have full-length vista windows that take full advantage of the Renaissance’s position along one of the world’s most famous harbors. In fact, the rooms have the perfect vantage point to view Hong Kong’s nightly “A Symphony of Lights” laser light show, which emanates from 44 key skyscrapers on both sides of the harbor.
The Renaissance also boasts its own Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant, called Dynasty, while Scala sensualizes attendees’ taste buds with a modern Italian menu. Recreational and fitness facilities that will pique delegates’ interest when they’re not in meetings are the 118,000-plus-square-foot landscaped tropical garden located on the 11th floor, which is perfect for relaxation and contemplation in quietude, and the adjacent heated outdoor swimming pool, dual tennis courts, driving range, jogging trail, and fully-equipped fitness center.
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