Beyond the gates of Peninsula: Where leadership and luxury coincide

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When “luxury hotels” come into the conversation, fancy names such as The Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, and JW Marriott often come to mind. “The Peninsula”, however, was a name foreign to me before coming to Hong Kong. As I stumbled into the lobby, the words “Project Melo” were enough for a cascade of affable staff to usher me to Felix. Felix was an extravagant restaurant and bar named after the previous General Manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong. As my mouth hung wide open, I thought to myself: “This, is luxury.”

Championed as Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, visiting the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong was beyond insightful. From an exclusive private tour to an intimate sharing session with Clement Kwok, CEO of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited (owner and operator of The Peninsula Hotels), the event was carefully planned to leave a powerful impression. Of all the spots, The China Clipper Lounge was my personal favourite. It was uniquely aviation-themed, styled with pristine couches to oversee the playful Hong Kong skyline. Leading into the private sharing, Mr Kwok, whose background involved accounting, investment banking, and corporate and financial management, stressed the importance of branding in luxury. Some notable points included trust and reputation. Real-estate expert and the Executive Director of Shui On Land Limited, Stephanie Lo, brilliantly moderated the session, allowing for productive cross-generational sharing.

What Did it Take?

Moving on to the key points, Mr Kwok credited The Peninsula’s success to its reputation. As a 95-year-old hotel, constant investments allowed for pristine quality to be maintained, and that reinforced the trust guests longed for in hotels. To quote Mr Kwok, the customers “felt safe with Peninsula”. No matter where they were, they knew that The Peninsula could meet their needs. With quality in mind, only 11 hotels under The Peninsula have been completed to this date, with The Peninsula London scheduled to open later this year. Employees were the flipside of the same coin, they were treated as finely honed assets, valued and trained across the years. The Peninsula counts on these employees to provide the service that customers want, and they are rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

On the theme of leadership, Mr Kwok emphasized that hospitality was largely a people business. Only by motivating and keeping the staff happy can they serve the guests well. As a result, talent retention remains a central theme in The Peninsula. By adequately training the staff, they are empowered to confidently carry out their duties and further instil their knowledge in newer employees. When a decision is to be made, Mr Kwok ensures that “everyone relevant to the decision is not shut out”. Fairness was a pivotal part of his leadership philosophy; he made sure that relevant information was sought out to make an unbiased decision.

A Lesson for the Youth

Finally, as a youth striving to embrace opportunities, one specific concept stood out to me. As part of the vast majority born without a passion, “unless you launch yourself in whatever opportunity you have, you won’t find out!”, Mr Kwok advocated. Searching for my “passion” has been my lifelong journey, and it often resulted in looking into the past for any signs I’ve overlooked. Now, I shall grasp onto opportunities as they arise and develop my personal qualities. Through cherishing opportune moments and weathering through tough storms, only will I end up where I’m meant to be.

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