Like many expats, I have family flooding in from Australia for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and not only do I have to feed and house them all, I also have to entertain them. After years of hearing stories about how wonderful Christmas is in Hong Kong (obviously our excuse for not heading “home” each year), they’re expecting big things.
With this in mind, I turned to a man who knows a thing or two about accommodating guests, and keeping them happy: Luc Bollen, General Manager at The Park Lane Hong Kong in Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong’s iconic Park Lane Hotel marked its 40th anniversary this year. For the celebrations, chefs from around the world were invited for the launch of the hotel’s new rooftop space, and the beginning of renovations that have brought a new dynamic to the hotel.
Luc, then, could be forgiven for taking a break and putting his feet up over the holiday season, but with bigger things planned for the hotel in 2015, he won’t have much time. “I’ll be working,” he says, “but I do like Hong Kong at this time of year. There’s a nice ambience; a good feeling about the place.” The same could be said about The Park Lane; there’s a definite buzz in the air as its fortieth festive season approaches. It’s clear the party isn’t over yet.
According to the Belgian GM, the key to keeping guests happy is to give them experiences that they will remember for all the right reasons, and feeding them well is a great place to start. RIVA and The Deck, on the 27th floor, has long been popular as a fine-dining venue in the heart of one of Hong Kong’s busiest precincts – it’s also a great spot to escape the madness of the streets while you’re out shopping. The new rooftop area was launched in October with a cocktail party for 400. “As soon as people stepped outside they fell in love with the space and its amazing views,” says Luc. “It’s available for private parties, and the bookings are flooding in already.” While rooftop parties and Hong Kong winters mightn’t go together, Luc happily informs me that gas heating has been installed on the rooftop, and the marble seating around the water feature can be converted into an open fireplace; a unique concept for a Hong Kong hotel, and very cosy.
This year, The Park Lane redesigned two floors, comprising 96 rooms, and converted them into family suites. “A great deal of planning went into that,” says Luc. “We really thought about what parents and children want and need when they’re travelling, and took out what they don’t.” Aside from extra space, features include more storage, double insulated doors for extra sound-proofing, and gaming consoles in each room. In 2015, the hotel will convert another two floors specifically for business travellers, with the same process of consultation and consideration for the needs of guests.
Luc’s chief aim is to keeping things interesting. “It’s good to have variety; people want consistency but they still want to discover new things each time they come in.” Those lucky enough to be spending New Year’s Eve at the hotel will experience one of these new things very directly. Luc explains: “Some guests may wake up and think they had too much to drink the night before, as they’ll be going to bed at The Park Lane on the 31 December, and waking up on 1 January to The Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel.” The rebranding under the Accor umbrella will introduce the hotel to new audience, and, Luc says, impact on every aspect of the hotel. The anniversary represented the closing of a chapter, he says, but also an opportunity to recognise the achievements up to now; by the team’s estimations, the hotel had hosted over 16 million guests in its 40 years.
With all these developments planned for 2015, it sounds like there’ll be many more visitors to come – starting with my in-laws!
Luc’s must-see things to do in Hong Kong for newbies
In the 12 months that Luc Bollen and his wife have called Hong Kong home, our fair city has made quite the impression on him. “It has a lot to offer. There’s a fantastic atmosphere, and I love the contrast of the old city that you see down on the street, with the modern high-rises above. It’s unique.” He recommends that first-time visitors or new arrivals try the following to experience a taste of Hong Kong’s best:
* Evening cocktails on a junk
* Tram ride to the peak
* Stanley Markets
* Ferry ride to an outlying island
The Park Lane Hong Kong, 310 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, 2293 8888