Trottings: Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.

 

March 30 2013

 

Trottings: Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.

 

M

OST reports about the 312-room Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong understandably start with the height of the building; the hotel proper is on Floors 102 to 118. The entrance to the hotel is on Floor 9, but the check-in and the hotel proper starts on level 103.

 

Management says it is the highest hotel in the world; I am in no place to argue. And there are many other superlatives.

 

But first the practical matters.

 

The hotel is atop the ICC block of offices, and accessible from the Kowloon station on the airport metro line and the local Tung Chung line. That means the hotel is also easily accessible from the Hong Kong island business district, although it is about 10-minutes-walk with a few escalators through a shopping centre, and with 2/3 places where you might have to ask directions. But with anything other than light or manoeuvrable baggage it might not be an easy trip.

 

Access is well signposted until the last 3/4 sections of the trip. Until here there have been arrows showing direction of the hotel on ceiling-mounted signboards, but then an arrow on one signboard means take the escalator up, not keep walking straight ahead as it has been on other signboards. (There is a sign, but at floor level, whereas until now all have been at ceiling level.)

 

At the top of the escalator you face a bank of elevators. But these are for the ICC office building, not the hotel, whose entrance is around the corner and through some doors.

 

Once through the doors there is a choice of going straight ahead or up an escalator; you need the escalator. There is sign advising this, but it is a ground level, and in shadow. Once there, there is no indication that you need to take lift to check-in level, Floor 103 – although there are staff to help. The lift goes automatically to Floor 103 (no choice), but you cannot ‘press’ anything – which most people do.

 

Now for the hotel. It is impressive from the start.

 

I was in a room on one of the four club floors; there are about 30 rooms on each floor, so nearly one-third of the hotel’s rooms. The hotel also has 80 suites.

 

Being in a club room gave me access to the club lounge – although guests can stay in other rooms and buy into the club service for US$130 (at US$1 to HK$7.75) more daily. Club guests also get a free Limousine service (drop off in Kowloon only).

 

The club lounge has no fewer than six free F&B servings for day – breakfast, lunch, etc. It is now open 24 hours. Every time I was in the hotel at those times I went to the lounge. Only if you have guests (although you can pay an extra US$45 for guests) or for a change, might you go to one of the hotel’s formal F&B outlets.

 

The views from the club lounge are spectacular – but then it is from most places in the hotel. There are also quiet areas in the lounge, a library room, computers, and a meeting room. It has seating for about 100, but during my stay it was never busy, even for breakfast.

 

On Floor 118 are the club lounge and spa. There are 11 spa rooms including two rooms for couples. Also great views, of course. Non-hotel guests can buy a spa package.

 

The spa is connected to an infinity pool (one where the water spills over the edge, giving the appearance that there is not edge – infinity) on the next floor up, the top floor. The pool has a full-wall and ceiling screen (actually 144 LED screens) displaying…whatever.

 

There is also an outdoor terrace, with chaises-longues. And a fitness centre, with machines connected to internet, so you can tweet as you run. There are indoor and outdoor jacuzzis.

 

On the level above is the suitably-named Ozone bar, said to the highest bar in the world (in a building, of course) along two sides of the building, and with some seats at a bar along the windows; you don’t know whether it is the whisky or the view that is spurring your inspiration. There is also an outside bar. Access to the Ozone bar is via two dedicated-elevators from the check-in level, Floor 103.

 

From here there is a better view than from the Peak on Hong Kong island – the well-visited viewpoint for many visitors to HK. The bar is at about same height as the Peak – but the hotel bar has a view of HK island, of course, which is a better view than the Kowloon peninsula view from the Peak.

 

There are escalators down from the check-in floor to Floor 102 which houses three restaurants – all with a view and interconnected via a decorated hallway (with various decorations on the walls – lights , lighted coloured leaves, bottles of wine).

 

On this floor are: the Chinese restaurant, Ting Lung Heen; the Italian restaurant, Tosca; and The Lounge & Bar.

 

Other outlets are Cafe 103 (on Floor 103 floor, known for its chocolate afternoon tea); Ozone (Floor 118; as above); Pastry Gems (Floor 9, arrival lobby).

 

In 2012, the hotel introduced what it calls its Chef’s Table. The room is located adjacent to the Chinese restaurant – but it has nothing necessarily to do with Chinese cuisine. There are four chefs cooking for the guests, who have to book. The service is available daily, and costs US$1800 for maximum eight people. Fewer can book of course, even one, but that cost remains unchanged. Cooking is done in front of guests. Guests can let the chef decide what to cook, or tell him what they want. The hotel is getting about two bookings a week for the Chef’s Table.

 

On Floor 103 The hotel had its retail shop. It closed six months ago, and the space was rented out for a jewellery shop. The hotel plans to reopen its retail shop inside the spa, in a currently unused space. This seems an awkward place for hotel guests, but time will tell.

 

Spectacular rooms with all facilities you can think of, and some you cannot. Wifi is free for club room guests (although I had great trouble during my stay – even my phone said no connection available).

 

I have some negative comments (some are surprising shortcomings, given Ritz-Carlton’s long and comprehensive experience in the hotel business):

 

-The wardrobe is not high enough for trousers to hang.

 

-The safe, although more accessible than in many hotels, is dark, and so you need to feel to make sure you have everything if you have anything there that is also dark.

 

-The room’s master-switch is not; it turns off most lights and appliances but not all.

 

-Linen is changed daily. Even if this is a luxury hotel, that is unthinkable. I advised housekeeping not to change mine during my short stay.

 

-On the Floor 9, the carpet runs along the wall. It needs to be moved to allow a non-carpetted passageway for those going to the shopping complex or metro. Otherwise you need to walk around; given usual human sentiments, many will decide to take the short cut – even moreso for those imbibed in the HK spirit.

 

-The dark sides: in lifts, a light shines down on one side of the wall panel putting the other side in the dark; in the room, the reading light shines from the ceiling, but in such a way that your head blocks the light – so can read lying only on one side.

 

-The bathroom has only the HK plug for its shaver outlet. (I think I can say that most 3-5-star hotels in the world have a unit that allows different voltages for this unit; how come this hotel missed this hotel-basic?).

 

 

Some features that may not be expected: iPod in all rooms; iPod docking station; Blu-ray DVD player; Nespresso coffee-making machine.

 

Despite Ritz-Carlton having a good-for-business-traveller image, its hotels are now offering more for other types of guests. And some of the hotels have a more contemporary appearance than the mahogany-style of the earlier designs. As a result this attracts, or was designed to attract, a wider range of clientele.

 

this hotel, for instance, is busier at weekends, although this is probably because it has a high share of business from China. That is the single largest market, with 40% of the business, Then North America. revenue is split 50/50 rooms/F&B.

 

Lowest rack rate is US$930, or US$1006 harbour view. Club rooms start at US$1084 or US$1161 harbour view.

 

The hotel is owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, a big real-estate developer in Hong Kong (and China).

 

 

 

The Fox’s Friends

 

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Trottings: Gay stay; Cereal killer.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.

March 16 2013

 

Trottings: Gay stay; Cereal killer.

TWO observations from recent trips.

 

Gay stay.

For some complicated reasons, I stayed in a gay hotel in berlin recently, Tom’s. I enjoyed the experience – that’s the hotel experience, of course. I did have some initial concerns, though, and thus asked a female colleague of mine to accompany me to my room.

In fact my comment is also related to that. The hotel is billed as Men Only (which I did not think was legal in Europe).

That is the problem. The hotel is missing out on about 50% of its potential clientele. Many women might prefer to stay in a ‘gay’ hotel. And after all, ‘gay’ is not gender specific.

Time for women to fight for their rights?

 

Cereal Killer.

I was shocked to learn that a top-market resort in southern Thailand* charges US$75 for its buffet breakfast. As the resort is on a small island, customers have little choice.

Although I have always preferred my cornflakes airfresh, this seems to me excessive. A quick trip around the world indicates rates around US$15-30 for BBs (better breakfasts).

Also, in general, I prefer letting the market decide. If there are enough customers satisfied with the price/value ratio, then let it be. I suspect, however, that with this resort, there is a touch of chicanery – no, that is not another cereal.

Because it is not possible to find out the price of breakfast from the website. Indeed, I presume for most guests it is not a factor either, and certainly not important enough to look up prices. If asked before they arrived they would presume it was not cheap but not outrageous either.

*Name to be revealed if their cheque bounces, or to those readers sending me cash in a plain envelope for my favourite charity. Mark ‘Soneva Kiri’ on the envelope.

 

 

The Fox’s Friends

 

Markets/marketing. Lufthansa, Germanwings, Easyjet, Ryanair, no-frills-airlines, Air France, Hop!, Outbound China.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 11 2013

 

Markets/marketing. Lufthansa, Germanwings, Easyjet, Ryanair, nofrillsairlines, Air France, Hop!, Outbound China.

 

S

OME observations on recent developments in the travel business.

 

 

 

[] Lufthansa’s subsidiary Germanwings was created in 2002 as a NFA (no-frills-airline), although it seemed LH was not convinced of the need – keeping GW off important routes, for instance.

 

Partly for that reason, business was bad – bad enough that LH stopped publishing GW’s traffic results last year. In the last batch I have, the NFA Norwegian, for instance, was selling double the number of seats that GW was selling! Norway has a population of 5mn, Germany 82mn; say no more.

 

Now comes the news that GW will progressively take over most of LH’s Europe routes. GW is thus becoming what I call a LCA (low-cost-airline), serving as a lower-cost operation for LH as Jetstar does for Qantas. That is probably a good decision. But LH still needs an NFA. If not, Easyjet and Ryanair will gradually take more of the total Germany market.

 

I expect LH will eventually realise this, and create an NFA for the second time when E and R together get to about 40% of the Germany-intraEurope market.

 

 

 

[] Easyjet is catching Ryanair again. Back around 2001 they were level, but since then, Ryan has pulled away.

 

Yet in February, Easy sold 4.1mn seats, compared with Ryan’s 4.2mn. But Easy’s count was up 3% and Ryan’s was down 6%. I know some of the reasons (I am not sure if Ryan does or is in denial). It is that Ryan’s primary clientele is leisure travellers and there a lot fewer of them around in winter. Easy’s client base is more evenly balanced.

 

Ryan says the fall was planned, but that is PR BS; a fall is a fall. I suspect that those leisure travellers that do move in winter are price-conscious, and Ryan cannot get prices low enough, nor keep a wide-enough passenger-pleasing route network.

 

 

 

[] NFA (nofrillsairlines) penetration worldwide was at 26% of total capacity in 2012. In Europe it is 28%; in Asia Pacific 22%.

(Calculated by Travel Business Analyst from OAG data. See OAG Facts. More in the Travel Business Analyst newsletters.)

 

 

 

[] Air France has named three of its almost-combined subsidiary airlines (Airlinair, Brit, Regional; it has two others) Hop! – the exclamation mark is part of the name, not an editorial suffix!

 

That Hop* acts like a no-frills-airline in prices and flash, but a regular airline in certain aspects of service, indicates it will be a big lossmaker for AF – although it will also be a “success” because its low fares will attract lots of passengers.

 

But the real reason it will fail is because its CEO wears a tie. He obviously has not attended the NFA school where you are taught that NFA CEOs must wear a business jacket (or suit), plain shirt, but with the top shirt button open. (No obvious sartorial rules for the few women NFA CEOs.)

*Most French do not pronounce Hs – ie, ’otel not hotel. So I presume Hop means “Op”, used to mean, sort-of, “Ok, let’s go/do it.”

 

 

 

[] I am close to finalising my estimate of outbound travel from China in 2012. Fast growth to the US (near 40%), but to Macau it is falling!

 

That will be a big problem for Macau – because it is not getting growth from visitors from other markets either. I said earlier that Singapore had beaten Macau and become Asia’s Leisure Capital. Right again; but I am not rich or famous.

 

 

 

The Fox