MOM: CHANG­ING FORCES

With his lat­est ho­tel makeover, ten­nis star­turned-hote­lier John Hui strives to immerse guests in the iconic beauty of the city by in­ject­ing a strong doze of Hong Kong iden­tity in the prop­erty.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents - STORY JOANNA LAM

The ten­nis-star-turned­hote­lier in­jects a strong doze of Hong Kong iden­tity in his re­vamped prop­erty

John Hui’s story is any­thing but or­di­nary. He was ten when he first picked up the ten­nis racket and fast for­ward 14 years later, Hui set the record for be­com­ing the high­est world-ranked men’s player in Hong Kong’s his­tory. Through­out his ten­nis ca­reer, Hui has checked nu­mer­ous des­ti­na­tions off his bucket list and came to the re­al­i­sa­tion that his pas­sion ul­ti­mately lies in cu­rat­ing a mem­o­rable ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence for jet­set­ters. This mind­set even­tu­ally drove the sea­soned glo­be­trot­ter to take the plunge and trade ten­nis courts for ho­tel suites in 2002. Fol­low­ing a year-long ren­o­va­tion, The Flem­ing, a lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel launched by Hui and his child­hood friend Ja­son Co­hen in 2007, will make a come­back later in the month with a dis­tinc­tive “made in Hong Kong” edge. We chat to the ten­nis vet­eran about his take on style, the im­por­tance of fam­ily and what to look for­ward to in his ho­tel makeover.

How would you de­scribe your per­sonal style at the of­fice and be­yond? I would de­scribe my busi­ness at­tire as mod­ern and chic. I don’t tend to wear ties un­less it is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Out­side of work, my sta­ples are smart,

com­fort­able and col­or­ful. I would al­ways opt for jeans, T-shirts and stylish sneak­ers over suit trousers and shirts. When it comes to de­cid­ing what to wear, com­fort is of prime im­por­tance to me. This pref­er­ence of ca­sual styling most likely stemmed from my years as a pro­fes­sional ten­nis player.

What are your go-to fashion brands?

For day-to-day wear, I am a fan of DSQUARED2’S T shirts and torn jeans as well as Golden Goose Deluxe Brand’s min­i­mal­is­tic at­tire. While Phillipp Plein’s sta­ples never fail to add a bit of glitz in my out­fits, I turn to Dolce & Gab­bana for for­mal wear. I also like to com­plete my apparel with a pair of Giuseppe Zan­otti sneak­ers, some­thing that fuse ca­sual chic with un­der­stated de­tails.

Do you have a favourite fra­grance?

I’ve been wear­ing Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male for many years. In fact, I try to con­vince my­self that the more fre­quent I use it, the more likely I will have the chis­elled mus­cles of the male torso as shown on the bot­tle.

What is your great­est pas­sion out­side of work? I am very much a fam­ily man. My three kids who are aged eight, eleven and twelve take up a lot of my time out­side of work. I love spend­ing time with them, trav­el­ling with them and es­cap­ing the hus­tle and bus­tle of Hong Kong with them. With my kids grow­ing up so fast, it is im­por­tant for me to cher­ish ev­ery mo­ment that I spend with them.

How does be­ing a for­mer sports­man give you unique in­sights in the hospitality in­dus­try? As a pro­fes­sional ten­nis player, I spent most of my life liv­ing out of a suit­case, check­ing in and out of ho­tels, and it was such ex­pe­ri­ence that ul­ti­mately sparked my in­ter­est in the ho­tel busi­ness. As a sea­soned glo­be­trot­ter, these first-hand ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ences served as use­ful in­sights to me when set­ting up a ho­tel.

While it may come as a sur­prise to you, most of the ho­tels that I stayed in dur­ing my ten­nis ca­reer were not par­tic­u­lar lux­u­ri­ous or in­spir­ing. The life of a ten­nis player is not as glam­orous as it seems, un­less you hap­pen to be Fed­erer, Nadal or one of the top in­ter­na­tional ten­nis play­ers. Quite the con­trary, these medi­ocre ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ences al­lowed me to fig­ure out what I didn’t like about them and the things to avoid.

As a globe-trot­ting trav­eller, please share the most and least mem­o­rable ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence of yours and tell us why. I spent a month in In­dia at the begin­ning of my pro­fes­sional ten­nis ca­reer play­ing low level tour­na­ments whilst stay­ing in one or two star ho­tels. As you can prob­a­bly imag­ine, that didn’t turn out to be one of the most en­light­en­ing travel ex­pe­ri­ences. I had to hide un­der the sheets ev­ery night just to avoid get­ting at­tacked by in­sects as they flew around the room – which was def­i­nitely unforgettable, but not in a good way.

On the pos­i­tive side, my fam­ily and I love to go to Gili Lankan­fushi in the Mal­dives. The level of ser­vice they pro­vide is im­pec­ca­ble and they re­ally go the ex­tra mile to en­sure that our stay is mem­o­rable. De­spite they have 45 vil­las in to­tal, most staff can call you by your name upon the ar­rival. Each villa is as­signed a but­ler or “Mr or Mrs Fri­day” as they call it, who was there to fa­cil­i­tate our needs when­ever we needed.

A newly trans­formed The Flem­ing is due to un­veil at the end of 2017, can you de­scribe its style and tell us about the new in­te­rior de­sign and the lo­cal art­work in the prop­erty? The new fur­nishes pay homage to Hong Kong’s iconic nu­ances and her­itage, think, cross har­bour fer­ries, old in­dus­trial build­ings and tra­di­tional bam­boo scaf­fold­ing to name a few. In­stead of turn­ing the prop­erty into an­other ar­che­typal ho­tel that you can eas­ily spot in New York or Lon­don, we shed light on what makes our city one-of-a-kind. Fol­low­ing the makeover, we’ve also ex­panded our tar­get clien­tele from busi­ness trav­ellers only to the young and savvy jet-set­ters as well.

In or­der to dis­play a con­stantly chang­ing col­lec­tion of lo­cal artists’ works in each room, we joined hands with Max Dautresme from A Work of Sub­stance to in­stall a sys­tem that al­lows guests to in­dulge in a va­ri­ety of qual­ity art pieces by home­grown tal­ents.

Tak­ing over the airy ground floor is Os­te­ria Marzia, an el­e­gant dining space which is a joint ven­ture with the Black Sheep Restau­rants group. Boast­ing sea-blue ban­quettes and buoy-like lanterns, the restau­rant aims to trans­form din­ers to the gor­geous Ital­ian coast.

Aside from Hong Kong, name one place that you would love to live in and why? If I re­ally had to choose, I would say Hawaii. I used to go to Hawaii with my fam­ily ev­ery sum­mer for a few weeks and I love it there. The pace of life there is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to Hong Kong and it is a great place to “stop and smell the roses.”

The land­scape and coast­line of Hawaii is out of this world and I find my­self sim­ply star­ing out into the ocean and soak­ing up the beau­ti­ful scenery ev­ery day. Not to men­tion the friendly lo­cals there will make sure you have no choice but to love life whilst you’re there! Ide­ally, spend­ing half a year in Hawaii and the other half in Hong Kong would be the per­fect blend of re­lax­ation and ven­ture for me.

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