The 'Yacht' relaunches as chic boutique hotel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am

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After disappearing from Causeway Bay for a decade, a 'yacht' aims to set sail again as the tourism industry booms.

Opposite to Happy Valley Racecourse and in Morrison Hill Road is a short building with an oblique roof. From the 1970s to the '90s, it was known as the 'yacht hotel' by those in the neighbourhood as its shape resembled a yacht's sail.

'Many people remember the yacht hotel so we're keeping the name, but we will make a big change to make it more appealing to business travellers and young travellers,' said assistant general manager Remus Poon Wai-kin. Also unchanged will be the residing owner of the building, the Tsung Tsin Association, previously a pro-Taiwan organisation, but over the years it has developed key links with both the Taiwanese and mainland governments.

The association has always kept a floor in the building as its office. A bust of Sun Yat-sen, founder of modern China, decorates the office. But the level will remain off-limits for hotel guests.

The hotel closed in 1993 after four decades of operation, and the 13-storey structure later took in two hot pot chains as tenants. But an increasing demand for accommodation encouraged a new hotel brand, the Vela, to rent the premises. The operators decided to honour the building's history with a Chinese name that translates into Pacific Yacht Hotel. Its English name is Vela Pacific HK.

The company is still applying for a hotel licence.

'Visitor numbers are going up. Since the financial crisis, more tourists prefer to stay in boutique hotels because they are cheaper than five-star ones,' Poon said.

Tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars were spent on the refurbishment. The hotel, which aims to capture the middle tier of the market, will have its soft launch next month, offering 90 rooms, 20 more than its predecessor.

With rooms priced at about HK$1,100 a night, the hotel targets both mainland and overseas travellers. Balconies and small kitchens will be available in some of the bigger rooms with views of the racecourse.

Vela Pacific HK is just one of many medium-sized hotels scheduled to open this year.

Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said there would be 64,000 rooms available in the city by the end of the year, an increase of 4,000 against a year ago.

The number was expected to rise to more than 70,000 by 2015, he predicted.

Of course, there is no shortage of new ultra-luxury hotels - the Four Seasons in the IFC, and the Ritz-Carlton in the city's highest building, the International Commerce Centre.

But more of the new hotels were located in smaller buildings in the hope of targeting mainland tourists, he said.

'They don't want deluxe rooms. Location is the most important consideration to them - it should be near shopping hubs,' he said.

Li saw great potential for budget hotels, as they could cater to an increasing number of travellers around the world who preferred to experience local culture than stay in standard rooms offered by luxury hotel chains.

Last year, the average occupancy rate of hotels was 87 per cent.

Still, many hotels in the New Territories were not full and there was no shortage of rooms, he said.

$210b

Tourism spending, in HK dollars, associated with inbound travellers last year

- That is a third more than in 2009