By some measures, luxury can be defined by the number of people involved with a product or service who directly interact with the customer. The more employees there are helping the buyer through each step of the experience, the more premium it is.
That’s true when it comes to hotels in Hong Kong, but there’s also another factor where land is literally rare: space.
The Rosewood Hong Kong, opened in March, aims to combine these two aspects – generously appointed guest rooms and public areas with highly personalized butler service – into five-star ultraluxury. To that end, the 65-storey, 413-room hotel at the foot of Hong Kong’s harbour is billing itself as a “vertical estate,” where the guest experience is akin to living in a mansion on the waterfront.
“It expresses everything that Rosewood can be or should be,” says managing director Marc Brugger. “It’s truly the fullest expression of the brand.”
The luxuriousness begins with a drive up a curving cobblestoned driveway toward the gleaming golden tower, designed by New York architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates to be the flagship of the 26-property Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotels and Resorts chain.
A bronze Henry Moore semi-abstract sculpture, aptly titled Three Piece Reclining Figure, Draped, greets visitors in the courtyard. Guests staying in one of the 91 suites are also welcomed by a personally appointed butler who introduces the property’s features, takes care of check-in and ushers them to their room.
The entrance and lobby are almost spartan. A few benches ring the airy chamber, surrounding a wooden bureau that holds a seemingly random assortment of artworks – a wooden boat model here, a porcelain statuette of a gymnast there.
The idea behind the minimalism, a Rosewood representative explains, is to get away from the feeling of transience that many hotel lobbies exude. Guests aren’t meant to spend much time here – there are more interesting and welcoming parts of the property for them to explore.
Among those are the hotel’s salons, where the luxury of space is evident. The lounge areas run the length of every floor above the 24th and indeed encourage loitering. Comfortable arm chairs sit between shelves stacked with books and artworks. Fruit-flavoured water and muffins are set out for snacking. Every day between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., butlers roll by with cocktail carts.
The salons provoked a great deal of internal discussion during the hotel’s design, as they took up floor space that could otherwise have been monetized as additional guest rooms. The argument that they would create a more welcoming, homey feel, however, won out.
“If guests just looked at them and said, ‘Hmm, that’s nice,’ and didn’t use them, it’d be a waste of space,” Brugger says. “But they’re really taking to them. It creates a totally different feel when you see people using them. So far it’s been a good investment.”
The space premium is evident in the accommodations as well. Guest rooms start at 53 square metres, which Rosewood touts as the largest entry level option for a Hong Kong hotel. Suites, meanwhile, range from 73 to a whopping 670 square metres.
Appointed by New York interior designer Tony Chi, whose past clients include the Park Hyatt Washington, Andaz Tokyo and Rosewood London, the rooms feature unique, eclectic curios, objets d’art and walk-in closets. Free-standing bathtubs, hammered copper sinks and twin showers highlight the marble bathrooms.
The real attraction, of course, is the view. Eighty per cent of the Rosewood’s bright, light-filled rooms feature panoramas of Hong Kong Island across the harbour. The sight is stunning during the day, while the nighttime light shows that play out across the forest of skyscrapers are mesmerizing.
The Rosewood also houses the expected amenities, with Holt’s Cafe serving a wide mix of Cantonese and Western dishes and the Tea Conservatory offering an extensive list of premium aged leaves. The menu at the Legacy House puts the emphasis on regional Shunde cuisine, known for its elaborate preparations, while the Butterfly Patisserie serves up rich cakes and chocolates.
Butler service caps off the luxury experience. While butlers at other hotels handle basic tasks such as delivering meals and packing or unpacking luggage, the Rosewood’s staff of 20 are instructed to go further.
Need tickets to a show, or someone to actually accompany you to a restaurant? The butlers here can do it for you. Guests can also be left alone if they don’t want or need help.
The service is a work in progress, with exact parameters still being worked out. Brugger expects it’ll be several months before the hotel figures out exactly what the butlers can and can’t do. The limitations are given by the guest, he says. “I’m not pretending we have it right right now, but we have to walk before we run.”
This space-plus-service luxury doesn’t come cheaply, with room rates ranging from around $800 to $6,000 for the Manor Suite. The blend is necessary, though, in an increasingly crowded luxury accommodation market.
The Rosewood isn’t even the city’s newest five-star hotel – that title goes to the St. Regis Hong Kong across the harbour on Hong Kong Island, which opened in April. Both join The Murray, which opened last year, as well as existing luxury properties including the Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons.
“If you’re able to convert a person, it’s never going to be with just the hardware,” Brugger says. “If a hotel becomes an icon, it always goes back to how people are treated.”
The writer was a guest of Rosewood Hong Kong. It did not review or approve this article.