Turn­ing his­toric build­ings into ho­tels for lo­cals makes good busi­ness sense

China Daily (USA) - - HONG KONG -

Play­ing a fenc­ing in­struc­tor in a govern­ment-spon­sored TV com­mer­cial, Fi­nan­cial Sec­re­tary John Tsang Chun­wah — a known en­thu­si­ast of the sport — talks about the many at­trac­tions Hong Kong has on of­fer for vis­i­tors, and re­minds his pupils the im­por­tance of be­ing a gra­cious host. Look­ing con­vinced, the stu­dents en­thused over stay­ing in Hong Kong rather than go­ing abroad for a hol­i­day.

Un­doubt­edly, the slick ad is widely watched. But for those Hong Kong peo­ple who are so in­spired may be frus­trated by the dif­fi­culty in find­ing suit­able home-away-from-home fa­cil­i­ties that can cater to their needs and ap­peal to their senses in their home town.

The choice of ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion at all prices is plen­ti­ful. But most of the ho­tels are lo­cated in the ur­ban ar­eas which lo­cal hol­i­day mak­ers are try­ing to shun.

Be­sides, there’re only very few ho­tels that can claim to be able to charm or woo lo­cal res­i­dents who are all too fa­mil­iar with the in­ter­na­tional ho­tel chains. Other than that, the choice ac­tu­ally boils down to the many new ho­tels con­verted from non­de­script res­i­den­tial build­ings or fac­to­ries that have been ne­glected, some from the 1980s.

These es­tab­lish­ments that have sprouted like mush­rooms in the past few years, are there to cater to the spe­cific needs of tourists, mainly from the Chi­nese main­land, who merely want a con­ve­nient place to rest af­ter a la­bo­ri­ous shop­ping spree. If they re­ally need to re­lax and have fun, they can go some­where else, like the Mal­dives.

Of course, we can dream. Imag­ine a ho­tel in Mur­ray House, the neo­clas­si­cal build­ing that was moved from Cen­tral and re­built brick-by­brick at the Stan­ley wa­ter­front in scenic Is­land South. Then imag­ine guests alight­ing at nearby Black’s Pier, which was also moved there from its pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tion in Cen­tral, from the ho­tel’s pri­vate yacht. That’s class.

Con­vert­ing build­ings with an amaz­ing past into ho­tels is catch­ing on else­where. A CNN spe­cial re­port notes that ho­tels in his­toric build­ings are bring­ing lo­cal fla­vor to guests. It cited ex­am­ples, in­clud­ing a fac­tory build­ing where Model T Fords were massed­pro­duced, a cen­tury-old YMCA build­ing in Pitts­burgh and an Art Deco build­ing that once housed a fur­ni­ture show­room in New Or­leans.

Hong Kong has done its share in con­ser­va­tion. But most of the time, it doesn’t re­ally know what to do with the his­toric build­ings it had spent so much money on, as well as ef­forts, to pre­serve. Turn­ing some of them into ho­tels for lo­cals who want to spend a com­fort­able hol­i­day in Hong Kong can make good busi­ness sense.

Mur­ray House on the Stan­ley wa­ter­front is one of the old­est Vic­to­rian-era build­ings in Hong Kong. Built in 1844 as of­fi­cers’ quar­ters, it’s now a top tourism at­trac­tion.

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