Turning historic buildings into hotels for locals makes good business sense

Updated: 2016-08-15 06:55

(HK Edition)

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Playing a fencing instructor in a government-sponsored TV commercial, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah - a known enthusiast of the sport - talks about the many attractions Hong Kong has on offer for visitors, and reminds his pupils the importance of being a gracious host. Looking convinced, the students enthused over staying in Hong Kong rather than going abroad for a holiday.

Undoubtedly, the slick ad is widely watched. But for those Hong Kong people who are so inspired may be frustrated by the difficulty in finding suitable home-away-from-home facilities that can cater to their needs and appeal to their senses in their home town.

The choice of hotel accommodation at all prices is plentiful. But most of the hotels are located in the urban areas which local holiday makers are trying to shun.

Besides, there're only very few hotels that can claim to be able to charm or woo local residents who are all too familiar with the international hotel chains. Other than that, the choice actually boils down to the many new hotels converted from nondescript residential buildings or factories that have been neglected, some from the 1980s.

These establishments that have sprouted like mushrooms in the past few years, are there to cater to the specific needs of tourists, mainly from the Chinese mainland, who merely want a convenient place to rest after a laborious shopping spree. If they really need to relax and have fun, they can go somewhere else, like the Maldives.

Of course, we can dream. Imagine a hotel in Murray House, the neoclassical building that was moved from Central and rebuilt brick-by-brick at the Stanley waterfront in scenic Island South. Then imagine guests alighting at nearby Black's Pier, which was also moved there from its previous location in Central, from the hotel's private yacht. That's class.

Converting buildings with an amazing past into hotels is catching on elsewhere. A CNN special report notes that hotels in historic buildings are bringing local flavor to guests. It cited examples, including a factory building where Model T Fords were massed-produced, a century-old YMCA building in Pittsburgh and an Art Deco building that once housed a furniture showroom in New Orleans.

Hong Kong has done its share in conservation. But most of the time, it doesn't really know what to do with the historic buildings it had spent so much money on, as well as efforts, to preserve. Turning some of them into hotels for locals who want to spend a comfortable holiday in Hong Kong can make good business sense.

Turning historic buildings into hotels for locals makes good business sense

Murray House on the Stanley waterfront is one of the oldest Victorian-era buildings in Hong Kong. Built in 1844 as officers' quarters, it's now a top tourism attraction.

(HK Edition 08/15/2016 page6)