HOTEL WATCH: 3 ASIAN RENOVATIONS WE’RE EXCITED FOR IN 2018
2018 beckons – and we’re thinking ahead to what the next 12 months will look like. For American hotels it’s set to be a big year for renovations, with 37 per cent of properties planning to revamp, restore or redecorate in the next 18 months, according to a report by Hotels Magazine and Readex Research.
Travel 7,000 miles eastward and a similar pattern is emerging: from Beijing to Osaka, three of Asia’s most esteemed hotels are on the cusp of bigger and better things. The three in question – the Park Hyatt and Shangri-La China World Hotel in Beijing and Osaka’s Ritz Carlton – are united by more than just location. All were among the first international hotel brands to launch in their respective cities, helping to introduce the concept of five-star hospitality to a previously untapped market.
Now, almost 30 years later, Asia wields great economic and cultural influence – and no one in its travel industry has felt the impact of this seismic shift more than hotels. To stay ahead of the curve, all three properties are seeking to hit the sweet spot between the modern and the traditional, carving out connections between the rich heritage of their cities and the core aesthetic of their brands.
Here are their game plans…
The opening of the China World Hotel was an iconic early chapter in the story of the continent’s luxury hotel industry – and soon became a home-away-from-home for notoriously picky executives and politicians. And if you’ve ever chowed down on braised aubergine or sea whelk soup in a Shangri-La hotel, you have Summer Palace, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, to thank: it set the benchmark for cuisine served in its sister hotels around the globe.
Recently, the hotel has made tentative steps toward renovation – the first of any kind since it opened in 1990. Guest rooms on two floors have been transformed into 69 residential apartments, reflecting the growing desire for flexible co-working and living spaces. Contemporary designs infused with a traditional aesthetic have been injected into the interiors: think clean, straight lines and ebony panelling, tempered by opulent gold filigree. The colour palette? Black and white, a stylish callback to traditional Chinese ink-wash drawings. Other guestrooms, due to be renovated throughout 2018, will follow a similar style.
One aspect, however, will remain unchanged: the grand lobby, with its jade-adorned walls, golden bamboo leaves and ruby red pillars, is a heritage piece in itself, with every detail reflecting the highest standards of Chinese craftsmanship. Even in an era of hi-tech hotels, co-working spaces and AI influences reign supreme, a traditional lobby is surely something to be treasured – and therefore kept.
Like its Tokyo counterpart, the Park Hyatt seemingly floats in the sky above Beijing, with its lobby on the 63rd floor offering arguably the best view of the city’s skyline. On a clear day, lucky guests can even catch a glimpse of the Forbidden City, courtesy of the hotel’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Back in 2008, when the majority of the city’s hotels were opting for chandeliers and palatial entrances, the Park Hyatt Beijing adopted a more understated approach. In line with the Hyatt brand aesthetic, touches of wood and linen – albeit the finest on the market – were as adventurous as their interiors got.
All this makes the upcoming renovation, spearheaded by Singaporean agency LTW Designworks, even more rebellious. Inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, the whole of the 63rd floor will be changed and the 62nd floor, currently the hotel’s business centre, will be transformed into a mixed-use space.
The hotel’s signature clean lines will remain unchanged, but the design studio will use curvilinear shapes to evoke a harmonious balance between western and Oriental influences. A once strictly monochrome palette will be lightened, and enlivened, by additional shades of green and black, drawing inspiration from native plants and Chinese ink-washing drawings.
Osaka Ritz Carlton
Notoriously resistant to internationally owned hotels, big name brands are few and far between on the Japanese hospitality scene. Even in Osaka, the country’s second largest city, you’ll find only a handful – and among the elite few is the Osaka Ritz Carlton. Built in 1997, the hotel was originally conceived as Japan’s answer to an eighteenth-century English manor house.
Where the Park Hyatt and China World Hotel are revamping their interiors, the Ritz Carlton are focusing their renovation efforts on food, in the hope that it will tempt the lucrative millennial market. With the craze for authentic street food showing no signs of abating, Hanagtami, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, is now offering a food truck-inspired BBQ menu.
The terrace has been transformed into a bistro-style wine and beer garden, while the hotel’s bestselling afternoon tea has been remodeled, a move which seems to have paid off: the new strawberry afternoon tea looks set to become a yearly tradition, after attracting more than 30,000 hungry Osakajins this Summer alone.