Hong Kong's heritage hotels rally with new incentive offers

How about a harbour cruise in a heritage junk boat, historical tours or bootcamp in a local park?

FayeThe Peninsula Hong Kong - Lobby
At Hong Kong's oldest hotel, The Peninsula's Academy programme offers incentives planners a choice of bespoke programmes which include Chinese stamp and mahjong engraving, culinary classes such as dim sum making and more. Photo Credit: The Peninsula

In a bid to circumvent ongoing travel restrictions and social distancing regulations, a few of Hong Kong's heritage hotels have strategised new incentive offers to attract local corporates.

Heritage Tourism Brands comprises Hong Kong-based hospitality brands including Harilela Hotels, The Langham Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, Swire Hotels, The Peninsula Hotels, and Wharf Hotels. The alliance was formed in 2019 with the aim to demonstrate how Hong Kong remains a top choice for business, leisure and MICE travellers.

“This spirit of the collaboration continues through the power of one voice in working with government entities and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, as well as identifying partnerships with credit card companies and the like”, Jennifer Cronin, president of Wharf Hotels, and chair of the Heritage Tourism Brands, told M&C Asia.

Unique incentive experiences to reward employees

FayeThe Langham - Hotel Exterior
To “catch the business trend", The Langham, Hong Kong has opened venues not offered for private use in the past, including privatisation of our rooftop pool area.

Many hotels have offered discounted staycation packages throughout the year — but how are they ramping up for corporate events and business individuals?

According to Juergen Doerr, Shangri-La Group’s vice president, operations (Hong Kong and Taiwan), promoting unique and heritage-first experiences can help boost interest from local corporates.

“[We’re offering] a harbour cruise in a heritage junk boat to experience the landmarks of Hong Kong before returning to the hotel to sample a specially curated menu by our chef’s team, showcasing the old and new faces of Hong Kong." There's also the option of a cocktail-making class helmed by award-winning bartenders.

As for Hong Kong’s oldest hotel and the brand’s flagship, The Peninsula, is offering experiential journeys such as a historical hotel tour, motoring tour and aviation history tour.

The Peninsula Academy for instance, offers incentive planners a choice of bespoke programmes which include "unprecedented access to historical, cultural and local lifestyle experiences," according to the hotel's director of sales and marketing, Eric Poon. Think Chinese stamp and mahjong engraving, culinary classes such as dim sum making and more. Poon added that staycation packages with dining experiences have been well-received by corporate planners.

As for ensuring safe play in Covid times, Poon said the hotel is "agile in responding to any updates to social-distancing regulations by being flexible and adaptable to venue setup, changes to venue options, flexible on pricing, using guest rooms for groups”.

The Langham, Hong Kong is also opening up its venues to “catch the business trend”. “Incentive qualifiers can also enjoy more exclusive experiences, which were not offered for private use in the past, including privatisation of our rooftop pool area for alfresco cocktails," Jaly Lai, director of sales & marketing, said.

Meanwhile, The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel, is offering meditation workshops, outdoor yoga classes at The Arches, bootcamps in the hotel’s neighbouring Hong Kong Park, and cooking classes with chefs. Tailored experiences, such as a perfume bar with customised, printed logos can also be arranged.

FayePopinjays, The Murray Hong Kong
The Murray, Hong Kong is offering meditation workshops, outdoor yoga classes and and cooking classes with the chefs to re-energise delegates between meeting sessions. (Pictured: Popinjays)

Marco Polo Hotels – Hong Kong is offering staycations, F&B rewards and 10 themed coffee breaks including Green Farm, Going Local and Healthy Essential for corporates to choose from to aid meetings. Customised logos on food are also available upon request. “Meeting rewards are also provided for group bookings with 10 guest rooms or above, a list of attractive incentives featuring double Marco Polo Rewards points, Star Ferry four-days passes and the hotel’s lunch buffet for two. Special gifts including iWatch and MacBook Air will also be rewarded for bookings achieving the target spend."

Boutique-sized corporate offers are also prioritised as a result of the social distancing regulations, where larger groups have had to scale down for safety measures. The Murray is using dividable rooms while Marco Polo Hotels – Hong Kong has lowered the minimum number of guest rooms for MICE events from 10 to five rooms as part of group promotions.

Shangri-La Group is promoting its Work Away From Office experience, which includes day use of the guest rooms and in-room dining experiences.

Gearing up for hybrid meetings

As restrictions remain uncertain, hotels prepare for a positive 2021 with carefully-curated packages that follow stringent health and safety measures in line with government regulations.

“We’re preparing for 2021 by keeping close contact with clients through virtual appointments and sales events and working closely with the tourism board for overseas promotions and market exposure,” shared Shangri-La's Doerr, who added that the group is currently working on internal training to strengthen skills and knowledge to prepare for the return of MICE clients.

“The Peninsula is working with suppliers to ensure the most up-to-date technology and communication infrastructure are in place to cater to client’s need for virtual or hybrid meetings and events”, said Poon.

Similarly, The Langham Hong Kong is focusing on Hybrid Meetings which comply with social distancing and contact tracing measures, while providing all the essential equipment for meetings including high-speed internet, video cameras and speakerphones.

“We have enhanced our meeting packages with the highest standard of biosecurity protocols, in consideration of possible last-minute changes due to the current pandemic situation, and flexible attrition and cancellation policies have been updated to ensure guests are comfortable to book and plan in advance,” said Wharf Hotels' Cronin. Intimate fireside chats and digital meetings will be at the forefront. Wellness will also be incorporated in packages, including the Wellness Meeting Package and Hassle-Free Meeting Package to redefine meetings.

An encouraging outlook for 2021

So far, the responses have been positive and more boutique corporate offers are in the pipeline.

“It is a new direction to target boutique event offers while adhering to government regulations, company restrictions and new technology standards”, said Shangri-La's Doerr, who told M&C Asia that already, requests have come in for Q2 2021 and beyond.

“Small and medium size of groups, particularly those requiring bespoke tailoring or where the organiser wishes to have a sophisticated virtual or in-person experience, is also a key focus for our hotel”, said The Peninsula's Poon. "We have received small incentive groups from companies in Hong Kong to reward their staff with staycations and dining experiences such as Afternoon Tea and Michelin-starred dinners”.

For The Langham, Hong Kong, bookings have come in for small-scale team-building workshops, with possible plans to privatise an entire guest room floor and use that to house a series of pop-up stores.

Wharf Hotels has continued to receive domestic business enquiries and secured bookings at mainland China properties since 2020. “The restrictions in Hong Kong are still in place, so we see fewer bookings as clients will await group meetings based on these restrictions. On the other hand, we have received wedding and social event bookings which continue to be appealing and have a strong demand in our markets, albeit with a slightly reduced capacity to ensure compliance with regulations”, said Cronin.

Further in the region, The Murray has picked Singapore to do its first e-Sales mission to reach out to corporate clients. This will be done via a live streaming virtual hotel tour to enhance the hotel’s exposure and reconnect with their existing corporate network and new partners.

Still, in the short term, worldwide travel restrictions mean Heritage Tourism Brands will still focus on "providing engaging content and opportunities for local residents to experience staycations... as we await to welcome back overseas travellers again,” said Cronin.

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