The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong: The world's highest hotel opens
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong opened Tuesday, claiming the title of world's highest hotel.
Located on the top of Hong Kong's tallest building, the 488 meter tall International Commerce Centre, The Ritz-Carlton has an incredible vantage point of possibly the best panoramic views of Hong Kong.
The opening marks a comeback for the hotel, which closed operations in its former location in Central in 2008.
While Hong Kong is saturated with luxury hotels, Ritz-Carlton President and COO Herve Humler has faith in the market.
"Everybody is doing very well," says Humler of the hotel and its peers in Hong Kong. "There is a great demand [for five star hotels]."
Much of that demand is coming from visitors from mainland China who account for an approximate average of 30 percent occupancy rate in luxury hotels in Hong Kong, according to Humler. They are often The Ritz-Carlton's best customers.
"They come to eat in the restaurants, they bring their family and they are eating better than anybody, drinking the best wines," says Humler. "And mainland Chinese customers are very loyal to the brand."
Humler's forecast for The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong's occupancy rate until May 2011 is at 58-62 percent, considerably lower than the more than 80 percent rate of luxury hotels in Hong Kong. He says his cautious numbers are part of a strategy to keep quality high during the launch period.
"That kitchen has only been cooking for the last ten days," says Humler of the hotel's Italian restaurant Tosca in which we were seated. "I can fill up the place, but I'm going to be very careful. You have to look at consistency."
If he can keep the service and food consistently as good as it was during our breakfast meeting, then The Ritz-Carlton is pretty much set on becoming Hong Kong's next hottest dining destination.
Tosca's scrambled eggs and caviar were casual yet decadent and done to a runny perfection. Served with a bit of smoked salmon, a sprig of greens and a toasted bagel half on a simple ungarnished white plate, the whole thing was very homey and easy -- not ostentatious.
The latest Ritz-Carlton has made a conscious departure from its haughty image as a stuffy upper class refuge with strict dresscodes. The pompous tagline may still stand ("We are Ladies and Gentleman Serving Ladies and Gentlemen") but everything else about the hotel feels postmodern, even hip.
Cheeky and insightful touches mark the hotel, from the telescopes in every guest room to the wheels fitted onto the dining chairs to the Chocolate Library, a cacao-themed lounge that serves a chocolate high tea. The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is trying hard to cater to every whimsy of its 21st-century guests.
Ambiance starts with unbridled glamor at Ozone, the world's tallest bar, a curved length of a room in an energetic patchwork of gilded wood, leather and marble serving cocktails, Japanese cuisine, and Asian tapas. Then follows the classy swagger of the restaurants Tosca and Teen Lung Heen where 8,580 bottles of wine line the walls, on the last count.
Some of it is almost braggadocio like the Bar and Lounge with its double fireplaces and two-story tall chimneys, or the world's highest swimming pool complete with 144 screens on the ceiling in case swimmers get bored.
But amid all the trendy, contemporary superlatives, some things don't change at The Ritz-Carlton. General Manager Mark DeCocinis assures that his team's signature commitment to good service will continue at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong where 30 percent of previous staff have been retained.
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong has 312 rooms and is on floors 102-118 of the International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong, tel +852 2263 2263. Rooms start at HK$6,000 a night for a deluxe suite, rack rate. The presidential suite is $100,000 per night. www.ritzcarlton.com
A tour of the Ritz-Carlton, in photos