Entrepreneur, Alexander Fu draws inspirations from Tsim Sha Tsui and his own mixed Thai-Chinese heritage for his new hotel, Attitude on Granville. We speak with him to find out more.
Savills: What is the concept of the hotel?
Alexander: My father started a timber furniture retail business on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) back in the early 1970s. However, market conditions changed, and manufacturing businesses started to decline gradually. He then shifted his focus onto commercial property investments with particular emphasis on TST due to his in-depth knowledge of the area from observing the shifts in tenant-mix, retail sales, as well as the day-to-day flow of human traffic in and out of the surrounding areas.
Our investments in retail properties started in non-core areas of Kowloon, then progressed to Canton Road, and now to Granville Road. So basically TST is where I grew up and spent most of my childhood, so I wanted to instill some nostalgic old-Hong Kong and old-TST elements in this new hotel; what TST used to look like before, and it is made out of now. Graphic images of the Star Ferry, the iconic Chung King Mansions, Star Avenue, and many more are drawn and painted on the walls of the guestrooms, the hotel lobby, and along the corridors, offering guests some memories of old-Hong Kong.
Savills: Who is your target audience?
Alexander: The main target audience of most hotels here in Hong Kong has to be Mainland Chinese visitors. However, I am also looking to attract more South East Asian tourists from countries like the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia to Attitude on Granville. These tourists love to spend their time in TST taking in all the tourist attractions, trying out the local street food, restaurants, and the local retailers. Many South East Asian countries are fully developed with all the high-end malls, so I believe that they want a taste of more local elements here in TST, and Granville Road and it’s surrounding area is really a great place for that! Because of the style, size and thematic elements featured in Attitude Hotel, we are also looking to attract backpackers; those who are looking for comfortable accommodation in the city center with all their basic needs catered to nearby, and on top of that, a little bit of funky-ness during their stay.
MTR station-inspired lobby
Lobby of the hotel
Lobby of the hotel
Savills: If you could sum up what you like most about Attitude on Granville, what would it be?
Alexander: It is the character, the design, and the concept that gives the whole property that ‘attitude’. We have tried our best to convert the existing office building into a hotel, satisfying all the tough rules and regulations imposed by the Buildings Department regarding fire safety, building safety etc. and it has not been easy; we spent the majority of the time throughout the development in thinking how to maximize the available space for our guests. The limited common areas and the rooms have all been designed in a way to achieve a suitable degree of guest comfort, style, and practicality. Working within the very tight parameters and on very valuable space, we have always been very spatially conscious; we paid special attention to creating as much open space as possible by going beyond the conventional ideas of what certain areas of a hotel or a guest room should look like. So what I really treasure most about the project is that we have created space which is both rather unique and practical.
Savills: What role does digital media play in running a hotel?
Alexander: We cannot deny the importance of digital media. I think in the near future, boutique hotels like this will be digitalized in order to keep the image up to date and keep the operational costs low. As for other kinds of technology, Attitude on Granville has deployed a handy phone that is complementary for all our guests. The phone allows you to get online wherever you are, make free local calls while you navigate your way around Hong Kong and stay tuned into various social media platforms. It will definitely play a big role in marketing. With regards to further implementations of other technologies, I am also interested in looking at suitable ways for our guests to check-in and out digitally, but this will have to wait until we have settled down longer and I have had some more time to think about it. I believe that the whole idea of a boutique hotel and great hospitality services for our guests is to offer a personal touch. Aside from cost efficiency, I try not to neglect the personal interactions between the guests and our services team.
Read more: How digital environment transforms retail landscape - please click here.
Best place to have a rest after a long day of shopping
Savills: You are building another hotel, Soravit, opposite Attitude on Granville. How do they differ?
Alexander: Soravit on Granville will be another boutique hotel with a completely different concept. It will be a hotel featuring a lot of Thai traditions and Thai culture. Being brought up by a mother from Thailand, I have always been intrigued by the rich culture, art and all those different stories and tales. We have asked a couple of very experienced and creative Thai artists to work on some pictures and statues that truly reflect Thailand. This hotel will be much less colorful than Attitude on Granville, but will also enable guests to enjoy the same level of comfort and convenience. The design will primarily be more monotone, and will have a little bit of a corporate feel to it. The multiple collections of artwork by the two Thai artists will be displayed throughout the hotel to make it look like a boutique Thai art gallery with accommodation.
Savills: What do you think about the current state of Hong Kong’s hospitality industry?
Alexander: I think that prices are pretty stable right now in Hong Kong, but of course room rates are seasonal and depend on such things as festivals and the number of on-going exhibitions and fairs. I believe that boutique hotels will become here, just look at Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and many other countries in South East Asia – they all have very nice boutique hotels. Most importantly, they are practical, affordable, and convenient. They have all the necessities that tourists and guests would need with outstanding hospitality and services. So if the whole macroeconomic environment including the retail, tourism and finance industries stabilizes or even improves again gradually, I believe the hospitality industry has a bright future ahead of it.
A room that showcases old Tsim Sha Tsui
Savills: You are also a veteran of the retail market. What do you think of the current retail situation?
Alexander: The retail sector has hit bottom. It is now open to shops selling casual smart apparel or accessories, or what we call ‘fast-fashion’ instead of the more traditional high-end luxury watches and jewelry like they usually do on Canton Road, or Russell Street. I would say the retail scene right now is about survival of the fittest; brands have to really adapt themselves to the macroeconomic environment, change, and get out of their comfort zones to strive for their desired sales figures and to achieve greater and greater sales volumes. We can all see that quite a few sports brands and even ladies’ lingerie or swim wear brands are up and coming, so it is really about how brands strive to keep up with the changing market and continue to reach bigger and bigger market segments by creating more diverse lines and collections.
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