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 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.