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June 19, 2014

Clement Kwok, Managing Director and CEO , Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels

By Chris Boyle

Clement KwokElite Traveler Asia Director Tak Man sat down with Managing Director and CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Mr Clement Kwok, at the WTTC Global Summit in Hainan .

On the agenda were upcoming exciting news for the Peninsula Hotels Group as well as key reasons why the brand continues to be so successful.

Elite Traveler: Mr Kwok, congratulations on your recent developments. It seems there is much to be proud of within the Peninsula Group. Please do tell us about these exciting developments.

Clement Kwok: Thank you, yes a lot is happening within the group, which we are very excited about. In terms of new hotels, we have The Peninsula Paris opening in August, which has taken a great deal of time and effort. You can already see the results in terms of exceptional public places, grand ceilings, wonderful terraces with street side dining and fantastic roof terraces. The building will be exceptional, both inside and out.

At the same time, we’ve been working on the London project, where we have signed a deal with Grosvenor for a location right on Hyde Park corner. Views of Park Lane and into the gardens of Buckingham Palace provide for breath-taking views. We are very happy with this location. Also, we are planning for a hotel in Myanmar, right in the centre of Yangon. This property has an impressive history, as the building used to be the Headquarters of the Burma Railways Company, which makes the 100 year old building very grand, a very interesting conversion.

Another aspect of our hard work is the effort we are putting into our existing properties. We recently completed a major renovation in Hong Kong and we are starting major renovations at The Peninsula Beijing, followed by Chicago. Between new properties and continuous innovation on existing properties, we have a lot to be excited about.

ET: How have luxury travellers taken to the relaunch of the Peninsula Academy?

CK: Peninsula Academy has been very well received. As you may know our intention of Peninsula Academy is to offer unique experiences that link the local culture and environment to our guests. We have fascinating and unique programmes within every property, and so far we have received excellent feedback from our guests. The Peninsula Kids’ Academy has proven to be successful as well, which provides fun activities for our younger guests. We don’t expect high volume, however the fact that we take the effort to plan each unique itinerary, shows our guests that we will always provide attention to detail.

ET: What kind of demands do private jet travellers seem to have at your properties?

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CK: For private jet travellers, we see the direction going towards unique tailor-made experiences such as learning about the local cultural lifestyle and wanting to be educated the in local history. The Peninsula Academy can often provide something which is interesting, exciting and meaningful to them.

ET: Do countries throughout the region react differently to the Peninsula brand?

CK: I think luxury is the same wherever you go in the world. It is all about attention to detail, graciousness, respect, sincerity and politeness. Our brand is about being true to the customer, delivering on the Peninsula promise. It is often mentioned that Asian hospitality is the best, however, with that in mind, we must not rest on our laurels. Our team strives to maintain that spirit which encapsulates the Peninsula Brand.

ET: What is the most important thing you have learned in business so far?

CK: The most important thing I have learned throughout my career is to be genuine. If there is a problem, admit to it and deal with it. It is very important to have the courage to admit to your mistakes, and of course learn from these experiences. I believe that type of communication is useful both with my management team and within each of our hotels. It provides teamwork and transparency. When I meet with my team I put everything on the table and get my team to participate in the decision making process. If someone has a disagreement or different point of view, they have to make that known.  When decisions are made collectively, I find the execution is better because you have collective accountability and responsibility.

I think an advantage of having a small number of hotels, 9 operating properties, Paris opening this year with London and Myanmar to follow, is that we have a closer relationship with each of our properties. I visit each of our properties 2 or 3 times a year. I know each of my GMs and executive management very well. I work hard to create this type of relationship culture and in turn I expect my staff in those properties to have similar relationships with our guests. The size of our group enables us to have those relationships on a more personal level as well.

ET: Clement, thank you very much for your time and congratulations on your recent developments. It has been a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about what makes The Peninsula such a special brand. As you know, our readers love The Peninsula hotels and are sure to be very pleased with your new properties.

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