Regent Hotels & Resorts chairman, Steven Pan, says the brand's iconic status means it can succeed outside Central. Photo: Sam Tsang

Top global hotels keen on Hong Kong presence

Luxury brands Dorchester and Regent yet to be deterred from gaining foothold in city despite record price fetched for prime Murray Building

The record-breaking bid last month for the landmark Murray Building, destined to become a luxury hotel, has not yet deterred global hoteliers from foraying into Hong Kong's competitive hospitality market.

Ultra-deluxe British hotelier Dorchester Collection - which counts Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Hollywood celebrities as customers - remains keen on looking for a location in Central, and Taiwanese-owned Regent Hotels & Resorts wants to stage a comeback to Hong Kong.

The property developer partners of these firms lost in the bidding for the 44-year-old Murray Building, the former headquarters of various government departments, to Wheelock's hotel arm, which paid HK$4.4 billion for it. The building is expected to become a Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel.

Dorchester chief executive Christopher Cowdray told the it was difficult to find the right location in Hong Kong, especially in prime districts like Central.

"Hong Kong has been on our radar screen for the last few years," said Cowdray, who manages 10 hotels in cities such as London, Paris, Geneva and Beverly Hills.

"We are actively looking specifically for the right location with iconic value."

Cowdray said the future Dorchester hotel in Hong Kong would complement the rest of the hotels in the portfolio, which are in prime locations, such as the original Dorchester in London's Mayfair and the Le Meurice near the Louvre in Paris.

The firm, which charges from €700 (HK$7,380) per standard room per night to at least €2,000 for a suite in its hotels in Paris, is targeting a market similar to that of the rate-setting Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui.

"Hong Kong, as one of the top international destinations, like New York and London, has room for an ultra-luxurious hotel," Cowdray said.

He said a Dorchester hotel would ideally have about 200 rooms averaging 50 square metres in size.

Steven Pan Si-liang, who heads Taiwan's largest hotel company, Formosa International Hotels, which owns Regent Hotels, is considering locations near Central.

"Over the past three years, nothing like the opportunity of Murray Building came [up] in Central," Pan told the . "But we believe an iconic brand like Regent will make the location work even if the future hotel is outside Central."

Regent ended its 20-year presence in the city in 2001, when New World Development, which then owned the Regent Hong Kong on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, sold the property to InterContinental Hotels, which renamed it InterContinental Hong Kong.

The Regent brand changed hands four times before becoming part of Formosa's stable.

"The frequent change of ownership isn't positive for the brand," Pan said. "But we want to bring back its legacy and glory to the city where it made its name world famous."

Pan said the hotelier might consider a resort-style hotel.

Consultancy Knight Frank said that with the limited supply of top-notch hotels and the prevalence of short-haul visitors, the industry's focus had been shifting to boutique and resort-style hotels.

No five-star hotel has opened in Hong Kong in the past three years.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Top hotel groups keen on HK presence