Luxury Hotels

In pictures: Five iconic features of the Excelsior hotel

The hotel was Hong Kong’s largest luxury hotel when it opened in 1973

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 9:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 3:48pm

The Excelsior hotel in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay has been thrusted into the media spotlight again on Wednesday after its parent company, Mandarin Oriental International said it withdrew the sale of the property as it did not receive bids that met its expectations.

Despite its current plight, the Excelsior hotel is a significant landmark in Hong Kong. Once Hong Kong’s largest hotel and the backdrop for the famous film, The Revenge of the Pink Panther, the Excelsior hotel has stood the test of time for over 44 years since its opening in 1973. The hotel also manages the famous Noonday Gun, a renowned yet mysterious legacy that represented the earliest of the British mercantile history

Here is a look at five iconic features of the Excelsior hotel.

Opened as Hong Kong’s largest hotel in 1973

If you ever wonder what an original prime real estate would mean in Hong Kong, look no further than the Excelsior hotel. Before any building was erected, the plot of land on which the hotel stands had already made a name for itself. The site was called “Lot No.1”, which is part of the lot sold to Jardines in the then British Colony’s first land sale in 1841.

When it opened in February 1973, the Excelsior hotel was considered the largest hotel in the city with 1,003 rooms. It currently only holds 848 rooms.

There is another first. The construction time of the hotel recorded was world-beatingly short. A feature story published by the Post in December 1972 wrote, “The 34-storey Excelsior is believed to have set a world construction record with its completion only 18 months after work began on the building”.

A prominent set for the Revenge of the Pink Panther

“The Pink Panther strikes again! This time in the lobby of the Excelsior Hotel,” a Post article wrote in 1978.

The crew of the blockbuster detective film stayed in the Excelsior hotel for three weeks, which put the world on notice about Hong Kong’s luxury hotel.

The guardian of the Noonday Gun

Owned by multinational company Jardine Matheson, the Noon Day Gun is fired off by an Excelsior employee at noon every day. The historic relic is linked by an underground tunnel to the Excelsior hotel.

The tradition of the Noonday Gun dates back to the last century when it was customary to fire a multi-gun salute to signify the arrival or departure of the taipan of Jardine Matheson.

How the Noonday Gun has evolved into today’s version remains a mystery, with different origin stories galore. According to one version, the multi-gun firing annoyed the resident senior naval officer so much that the hong was reprimanded by the British Colonial Office. In penance, the company had to fire one gun at noon every day as a time signal for the Colony.

A favourite spot of Hong Kong’s high society

Among those who frequented the Excelsior hotel in its heyday were late Sir Run Run Shaw, founder and former chairman of the city’s premier broadcast television network, TVB.

David Tung Wai, a broker and a close friend of Shaw, remembered the hotel well.

“Run Run and many financial market friends liked to go there for meetings or drinks in the old days,” Tung, 88, said in a June interview with the South China Morning Post. “I particularly liked its live band and dance floor on the top floor. We had a lot of good time there. It’s sad to hear it being put up for sale.”

A popular venue for upscale fairs, conventions and exhibitions

In an article published by the Post in 1978, the Excelsior’s Palace was described to be “long known for its association with prestigious conventions and exhibitions and its lavish nightclub operation in the evenings”.

A variety of cultural activities were held in the hotel, including a 1977 concert by Van McCoy and the 1997 International Chess Championships.