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Cheng outlines big year in 2014 for Peninsula Hotels

February 7, 2014 Headline News, Hotel News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59If last year was a major one for The Peninsula Hotels, this year promises to be even bigger. In 2013, the flagship Peninsula Hong Kong celebrated its 85th anniversary and completed its AUD 66 million room-enhancement program.

This year, The Peninsula Paris, the luxury hotel group’s 10th hotel, is set to open. Peninsula has also announced properties in London and Yangon, Myanmar.

Fabulous location - The Peninsula Paris

Fabulous location – The Peninsula Paris

Robert Cheng, vice president marketing, in charge of branding, public relations, guest engagement and e-commerce for The Peninsula Hotels, confirmed on a recent visit to Australia that 1 August 2014 is the official opening date for the new Paris property.

“The grand opening will probably wait until the hotel has had a couple of months under its feet,” Cheng added. “The Peninsula Paris is in the 16th Arrondissement, on Avenue Kléber, just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe and about a seven-minute walk from the Champs d’Elyssees.”

As for the venue for the opening party: “The hotel has an amazing rooftop terrace, and I’m sure we will want to make use of that for whatever grand opening party we do.”

The Peninsula Group is owned and managed by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited, still run by the Kadoories, the family which founded it well over a century ago. The Peninsula Group is expanding steadily, but in a controlled manner. One of the smallest and most exclusive luxury hotel groups in the world, it is prepared to wait years – or even decades – for the right property to come up.

“It can take us a long time to find the right site, but when we do it’s a good one,” Cheng comments. This corporate patience was exercised when choosing the sites that Peninsula acquired last year for its upcoming London and Yangon properties.

Robert Cheng

Robert Cheng

“It took us about 40 years to confirm that site in London, so we do take a very long-term view in opening hotels,” Cheng says. “London and Myanmar are in the very early stages of development. London is in Knightsbridge right on Hyde Park Corner, at 1-5 Grosvenor Place. It’s an amazing location overlooking Hyde Park as well as the gardens of Buckingham Palace.  You can’t get more quintessential London than that.

“In Myanmar we are in Yangon, again right in the heart of the city, by Scott’s Market, a famous historical site. In London, we acquired an office building, so we will tear that down and put something new up; while in Myanmar we acquired a beautiful heritage colonial building, the former headquarters of the Burma Railroad Company, which we will obviously restore and modernise to turn into the Peninsula Yangon.”

As well as its flagship hotel in Hong Kong, Peninsula operates properties in Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok and Manila. If it establishes a hotel in Australia, it will follow its tried and true formula.

“The way we choose our destinations is to first choose the city,” Cheng says. “We have identified a list of global gateway cities and we try to choose destinations that have a strong leisure as well as business component. Once those destinations are set, we then look for the best and most central location within each of those cities. And we also have a third criterion: we look for ownership. We don’t do management contracts. We own the hotels or a part of each hotel, so each hotel represents a significant investment on our part.”

The formula works. “Business is doing well,” Cheng reports. “Our newest hotels, in Tokyo and Shanghai, are doing phenomenally well. Also, business in the US has picked up tremendously. Hong Kong celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2013 and we also recently completed the AUD 65 million renovation of the rooms and suites. The entire hotel is now finished and it has been very, very well received.”

As far as bookings go, Peninsula is a strong backer of travel agents.

“We definitely rely on our network of agents,” Cheng affirms. “We are very lucky to have kept very good relationships with all the top agents around the world and in  Australia. Obviously, we see more bookings coming in through newer channels, online and direct bookings, but the agent community is still very important to us.”

In Australia, Peninsula works with agents throughout the country, “American Express, Virtuoso, as well as the independent agents”, Cheng notes.

The Peninsula Hong Kong is known for its fleet of Rolls-Royces and its discreet in-room technology. Recent innovations at the hotel include bespoke, state-of-the-art tablets (flat, touchscreen portable computers) which control all in-room functions and can change the whole room to the language of guest’s choice by tapping the screen.  The property has a very strong guest base, with the US, Japan and China each serving as largest overseas market, depending on seasonality.

As well, “our Hong Kong property has very high repeat business,” Cheng says. “We have guests come back year after year who have become part of the family. Hong Kong has had guests for three generations, who keep on coming. One guest has come every year for 50 or 60 years. It’s a good vote of confidence.”

Review sites, with TripAdvisor the most prominent, are a growing facet of business, Cheng says.

“These day it’s hard to ignore them. We certainly pay attention to them and we respond to reviews on the sites. We look on it as an additional channel of customer service, of communication with our guests. It’s certainly a new phenomenon.”

Peninsula works with many major online travel agents (OTAs), Cheng says, and word of mouth is also important.

“We have a very high ratio of repeat bookings. We are lucky to have a loyal client set. To give you an example, I think in Beverly Hills, upwards of 60% of business consists of repeat guests. We do take care of our guests well and it becomes a very personal relationship.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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