Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels plans on new Peninsula properties in London, Istanbul and Yangon

The Peninsula hotel operator held a gala event on Friday to mark its long history in the city, and lay out its road map for the future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 10:52pm

Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH), owner of the Peninsula hotel chain, celebrated its 150th anniversary and its position as the oldest registered company in Hong Kong on Friday with giant helium balloons and champagne.

The company struggled in the first half, with underlying profits falling 43 per cent to HK$152 million.

While HSH was first incorporated as a company in March 1866, its initial Peninsula hotel was established in 1928. The hotel group currently owns and operates 10 Peninsula locations across the world, as well as The Peak Complex, The Peak Tram, and The Repulse Bay in Hong Kong.

At their anniversary celebration, HSH executives reaffirmed their long-term outlook for the company amid political and economic uncertainties in Hong Kong and around the globe.

“So much goes into surviving for 150 years,” Clement Kwok, HSH’s chief executive officer, told the Post. “At the core this, I believe, is commitment, commitment to the long-term, commitment that you go through some good times and some bad times.”

This long-term view is what differentiates HSH from other hotel groups, he said, particularly those who are not owner-operators of all their hotels like HSH is.

“When you’re the owner, you can really take a much longer term view, you can invest in the product,” Kwok said. “When things are bad, you can keep your staff and so on, which you don’t have that control if you’re only the manager because the purse strings are held by the owner.”

The company opened its Peninsula hotel in Paris in 2014, and is in the process of developing new hotels in London, Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, and Istanbul in Turkey, according to HSH chairman and business tycoon Michael Kadoorie.

“The [hotels] that take up the most work are the most recent ones,” Kadoorie, who also chairs the power company CLP Holdings, said. “Paris was a lot of work, but now we have a wonderful hotel there.”

But finding the right management personnel to help run the three upcoming hotels is among the biggest challenges, he said, since “there are only so many who understand the fabric of what this hotel stands for.”

When asked if he has confidence in Hong Kong, Kadoorie replied: “Very much so.”

“Although we have our little Brexits here with politics, we need to think in terms of what the great values are for our city,” he said. “We have to recognise what we have and make the best use of it.”

But Kadoorie says he understands young people’s frustrations over housing affordability, as Hong Kong properties are among the most expensive in the world.

“Our government should be able, they’re clever, they should be able to find solutions,” he said. “But it should be done in a stable, peaceful [way], recognising the law.”

Despite various short-term headwinds, Kwok maintains that people will always be interested in travel and hospitality.

And after 150 years, HSH believes new challenges ahead will include how to integrate bid data capabilities with personalised service, according to Kwok.

“But it is not an easy game to play,” he said.