This week, we sit down with one of the busiest people in the hotel industry, Rainy Chan, Regional Vice – President of the Peninsula Hotels, General Manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong, and esteemed member of our very own Advisory Board. Read on as we discuss the future of the Peninsula Hotels, Rainy’s favorite places to visit, and the one item she cannot travel without. Enjoy!
1. Thank you for accepting to do this interview Rainy. Now, though you probably don’t need any introductions, could you please tell our readers about your role at the Peninsula in a few words?
In my role as Regional Vice-President of The Peninsula Hotels and General Manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong, I look after our flagship in Hong Kong as well as our Bangkok property.
2. You’ve worked your way up from Front-Office manager to where you are today. It’s safe to say you know this industry like the back of your hand. In your opinion what would you say, is the main motivating factor for anyone who is in this business?
I think the main motivating factor in this industry is definitely the ability to connect with people at different levels and to have the opportunity to influence a guest’s travel experience in a positive way. I believe the hotel business is one that really enables a team of people in different roles to come together in a very natural way, and the team spirit that you feel every day is incredibly motivating. Our team comprises a mix of skillsets, backgrounds and cultures, and all of them can individually contribute to the success of our business, irrespective of age, background or gender. To foster this kind of dynamic is very satisfying as a leader.
3. Last year was the Grand Luxury Hotels first Advisory Board meeting. Could you tell us a bit more about that experience and what you took away from it?
From the outset, being a hotelier and a seasoned traveler with high expectations, I was extremely impressed by the level of thoughtful planning that went into the organisation of our board meeting. I have always been inspired by Ivan and Rouslan’s vision and commitment to quality. The passion they have for this business and the story behind how they founded their company is incredibly illuminating. Having had the insight into Grand Luxury and their plans for the immediate future, I have every confidence that they will continue their dynamic trajectory of growth. They have been able to inject a rich layer of personalized service into their business offering, which is rare in a technology-led business.
Peninsula Hong Kong indoor pool
4. What would you like to achieve alongside Grand Luxury Hotels in the years to come?
In today’s world, where “five star” and “luxury” are buzzwords in our industry, the fact that Ivan and Rouslan still commit to personally visiting and validating both the product and the service at the grand hotels they feature, before recommendations to their top-tier clients, is testament to their commitment to deliver on their brand promise. As we celebrate our parent company’s 150th anniversary this year and as one of the oldest luxury hotel brands in the world, our timeless commitment to quality and personalisation of service remain the most important facets of our DNA and we are committed to ensuring that this tradition continues for many more years to come.
5. Thank you very much for sending us a copy of the Peninsula’s wonderful book “Our Hong Kong”. Can you tell us where the idea for this publication came from?
In spite of Hong Kong being such a small city, it has so many fascinating cross-cultural stories to tell and, with the longest serving staff in the city here at The Peninsula, I felt that they would be the most important ambassadors to tell these personal stories. This has enabled our guests to see the city through the eyes of a local, which gives an unprecedented level of authenticity to the book. Our Hong Kong remains the most popular gift item that we have ever created for our guests.
6. In “Our Hong Kong” you mentioned that your favorite places in the city are Cat Street and Man Mo Temple. But having worked in Peninsula hotels across the world, you’re a bit of a globetrotter. Is there another place in the world which you hold close to heart?
I’m a romantic at heart and I find that cities that evoke emotion in me are the most memorable. Bangkok and Paris are my favorite cities aside from my home town of Hong Kong. I love Bangkok for all its unexpected facets and, especially, the Chao Praya River and the contrast of having all that modernity juxtaposing how the local people still live along the river. I love the way they co-exist together in such a beautiful, exciting way. If I had to choose the most romantic city in the world it would have to be Paris. Paris is a city in which you can discover endless beauty, from the architecture, to the paving stones, or in a café that you stumble upon. As the City of Light, Paris retains its softness and its beauty whatever the weather.
7. Let’s linger on the globetrotter theme a little. What’s the one luxury item you can’t see yourself travelling without?
One luxury item that I cannot live without is my beautiful pashmina from India, which provides me with the warmth and comfort I need whilst travelling, without taking up any space in my luggage.
8. Are hotels like children and you’re not supposed to have a favorite? If not, which one is yours and is there another that’s won you over?
It may sound hollow, but my favorite hotel is The Peninsula Hong Kong, not least because it’s where I started my career 22 years ago. Although I’ve been the GM of this hotel for ten years, every day I walk into The Lobby I still feel that sense of awe, and the presence of the Grande Dame continues to take my breath away. None of this would be possible of course, without our people. They keep this legacy of luxury alive, and the way that they create magic every day never fails to impress and humble me. If I had to choose another favorite, it would be the Singita reserves in Africa. The way that they craft the message of luxury and authenticity is incredibly powerful.
Peninsula Hong Kong – Exterior and Rolls Royce Phantom fleet
9. We have a number of prestigious hotels and groups in our collection. Let’s imagine you were helping one of our members choose a hotel, what would you say is the one difference that sets the Peninsula apart from others?
When it comes to hotels it really all boils down to service, as this is how each of your members’ travel experiences are formed. I think The Peninsula’s reputation as a hospitality icon stems from the service that we have been crafting for the past 150 years. The fact that we are one of the world’s few hotel companies that is still family owned really sets us apart.
10. Which is your favorite suite to stay in across the Peninsula properties and why?
My favorite suites have to be any one of the five signature suites at The Peninsula Paris, each with their own private terrace. To be able to step outside of your room and look out onto that iconic skyline with the Eiffel Tower gleaming in the distance is the ultimate novelty, and there’s nothing more luxurious than having your own private space to preside over it all.
The Peninsula Paris Terrace Suite view
11. What’s on the cards for the Peninsula Hotel Group in the future?
We are very excited to be building our second hotel in Europe in London, a city that we have wanted to have a presence in for a long time. Istanbul is also under development, with the smallest hotel in the group currently under development in Yangon, which is a beautiful heritage restoration project in the capital city, Myanmar.
12. One of the aspects of The Peninsula group that we really like, is how you readily integrate local art and culture into your hotels. Examples of this can be seen in the Peninsula Moments section of your website. Could you tell us more about this philosophy and if there is a particular collaboration that you really liked?
Travel is such a big part of our lives today and art is very much part of that lifestyle experience, which all links back to passion. People travel the world to look for that piece of art that they feel passionate about, so we thought that linking with art would appeal to our customers, both to those staying at the hotel, as well as our broader public beyond.
It brings new elements to the hotel and is thought-provoking, especially when you have the privilege of partnering with institutions like Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts; allowing us to merge hospitality with creativity at a high level. With the installation of a life-sized sculpture of a bus hanging off our façade in 2015 and an oversized musical robot in The Lobby this year, the art becomes so much more than just aesthetically decorative; it is both entertaining and thought-provoking and it fits into the unexpected agenda of our guests, who love to be surprised and delighted by something they may never have seen before, and that moves them. Our wonderful partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts enables us to do this at a very high level.
13. Thanks for your insights Rainy. Any last words that you would like to say to our guests?
I believe that travel is the best way to be inspired, and offers limitless opportunities to enrich your life journey by discovering things you may never have been exposed to. This is how we cultivate our dreams and aspirations. Travel continues to connect the world and the people within it. I hope that at The Peninsula, we can contribute to enriching your travel journeys.