Hotel tours on street level: A look at Hong Kong’s hotels in the 90s

Written by by Cindy Tolan, CNN

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, less than 20 years ago, was one of the few international hotel brands to remain a part of the Hong Kong and Macau hotel market during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, and continues to be a key player in that market today.

The hotel, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, was originally developed as an out-of-town motor racing venue, and since the Ritz opened in the city in 1987, it has hosted some of the region’s most acclaimed and high-profile international events. This includes International Summits on Trade and Investment between Japan and China.

Beyond the international scale of the Ritz, Hong Kong’s incredible skyline also shines in a completely different way at night. Within walking distance of the hotel sits Soho House Hong Kong , the former remains one of the brand’s high-profile venues in the city.

Every since, the party atmosphere of a night out at a club or restaurant in Hong Kong, has in some way or another evolved thanks to mass tourism and the booming exchange rate. “Today, certain areas have been reclaimed from their traditional streets for tourists and tourists want a certain type of experience and culture,” explains Joanna Van Riet, the Ritz’s General Manager.

Since the Ritz opened, holiday parties have played a huge role in the city’s hotel market. Photography by David Stow; searching by category under “Maltings.”

This was very much the case at the Ritz during the nineties and early aughts when “every year, Hong Kong started hosting more and more big events,” says Ms Van Riet. “And now we see this still. From a hotel’s point of view, it’s very exciting for us when these large events come to the city because it makes us work even harder to prepare our facilities.”

As well as hiring new artisans and builders every few years, the hotel hired the likes of Lee Ming Yuen , a set and lighting designer who went on to help design “The Lost Prince,” the 2001 production that paid tribute to King Edward VII of England.

“To have a local production here is really special,” says Ms Van Riet. “Many of the locations and production artists helped us with the very first ones that we hosted. And we can definitely say that for “Hong Kong”, it made things much more festive.”

The quintessential tourism image of Hong Kong has meant, according to Ms Van Riet, that the city itself has become quite synonymous with more overtly “high-impact” events.

“Hong Kong has always been a party city but due to the increasing tourism flow to the city from mainland China, we need to show a more refined and refined view of Hong Kong,” says Ms Van Riet.

“The smaller labels and smaller niche players don’t necessarily need to take that step up to produce something that is going to drive a lot of press and media buzz.”

For future events, Ms Van Riet says that the Ritz, which still has a small workforce of around 45, will continue to seek out low-budget alternatives to fuel creativity.

“You can’t sit back in a hotel and watch your staff get stressed and overwhelmed. You have to get involved. When you get involved you can really make a difference. And we still do.”

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