In Conversation with Myanmar Business Today: Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd CEO Clement Kwok

The Hongkong and SHANGHAI HOTELS Ltd (HSH), a Hong Kong-based premier hotel group, along with Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd, is set to foray into Myanmar’s booming hotel and tourism sector by opening a five-star hotel called THE PENINSULA Yangon. Clement KM Kwok, CEO, HSH, talked about his firm’s investment, its goals and Myanmar’s hotel industry’s potential with Myanmar Business Today.

What induced HSH to expand into Myanmar? Are the recent politico-economic reforms one of the factors?

HSH’s corporate development and investment strategy focuses on the development of a small number of the highest quality Peninsula HOTELS IN THE most exceptional locations with the objective of being a long-term owner-operator.

We believe Myanmar is one of the world’s most exciting emerging markets and we see good potential as a luxury travel and tourism destination. Certainly, the recent politico-economic reforms are encouraging.

Earlier this year, we were pleased to announce a definitive conditional shareholders’ agreement for the purpose of restoring the former Myanmar Railway Company headquarters into a hotel to be called The Peninsula Yangon.

The agreement, subject to conditions and approval, will seek to redevelop and restore the heritage building, which dates from the 1880s and is one of the oldest existing colonial buildings in Yangon. It is located on Bogyoke Aung San Road in the central business district of Yangon, one kilometre north of the Yangon River and adjacent to the tourist attraction known as Scott’s Market.

Are there any political or economic uncertainties behind investing in Myanmar? If yes, how would HSH handle them?

There are uncertainties going into any new market, whether developed or emerging. That is why HSH is highly selective about the projects we choose for the development a Peninsula hotel, and we always take a long-term view.

We ensure that we choose an exceptional location and the right partner. We are working with a very experienced partner in Myanmar, Yoma Strategic Holdings, and we are confident that our genuine commitment to the long term gives us the staying power to ride through any short-term uncertainties.

As a well-established hospitality group, does HSH see any unique opportunities and challenges presented in Myanmar?

Myanmar is a very large country with plenty of natural resources. With its recent opening up, many industry sectors are being developed, such as power, infrastructure, education, telecommunications to name but a few. We believe that having a top class hotel like a Peninsula will support and play a part in this overall development.

Myanmar’s tourism industry is developing rapidly and we believe there is a requirement for an ultra-luxury FIVE STAR HOTEL company in this market.

When we open a Peninsula hotel, we not only cater to tourists but also to local guests, and we believe there is a growing market of affluent consumers in Yangon.

Does HSH see any advantages for your business in Myanmar of basing in Hong Kong? For example, has the Hong Kong Government (or the Hong Kong Trade Development Council) offered any help or advice?

The HSH group has been based in Hong Kong since 1866. We believe Hong Kong is an excellent location for doing business due to its ideal location in the heart of Asia, excellent transportation networks and business-friendly environment.

We are a member of the Hong Kong-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and we are working closely with the local authorities in Myanmar for this project.

Lastly, how would HSH preserve the historical building of the Burma Railway HQ in the course of its renovation?

HSH has a great deal of experience in the preservation and restoration of historical buildings.

Our newest hotel property, THE PENINSULA Paris, opened its doors on August 1 this year. The property is a late 19th century classic French-stylebuilding, which first opened in 1908.

This magnificent building was meticulously restored over a period of four years using teams of French master craftsmen, utilising traditional techniques in use for hundreds of years. With the aim of preserving the heritage, authenticity and the spirit of the building, together with the expansive volumes of the original rooms and public areas, original elements long gone or badly damaged were recreated following extensive research, and the décor dating back to 1908 reinstated in all its glory.

Marble, stucco, mosaics, roof and wall tiles, wood carvings, stone work, gold leafing, paintings and a myriad of other elements have been lovingly preserved and painstakingly restored by some of France’s most revered family firms, dating back generations and more used to working on heritage projects such as the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

For our project in Yangon, we foresee that we will draw upon the expertise that we gained during the Paris project to restore this magnificent heritage building, which dates to the 1880s, to its former glory.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

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