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Swire Hotels: Small Group, High Profile

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© Swire Properties The lobby of Swire's Middle House Hotel in Shanghai. (Michael Weber Photography courtesy of Swire Hotels)

By Harvey Chipkin, TravelPulse

When your hotel company has just a few properties, the challenge is to make the brand stand out in any way it can. For Hong Kong-based Swire Hotels, those distinctions include a high level of service, shared ownership with an airline and a close relationship with travel agents.

Swire has two brands: The House Collective, luxury hotels at the top of their markets, and East, also at the top of the market but more oriented to business travelers. The company’s first hotel, The Opposite House in Beijing, opened in 2008 and was followed by The Upper House, Hong Kong, and then by East, Hong Kong and East, Beijing. The Temple House in Chengdu, China, opened in July 2015; East, Miami, the company’s first location in North America, opened in May 2016. The newest property, Middle House, opened in May in the heart of Shanghai.

While each hotel is different and created by a different designer, they share a service philosophy based on Asian principles, said Dean Winter, group director of operations. He said that while the hotels are in the luxury category, they offer a relaxed environment. “We don’t have staff dressed in silly uniforms with scripted interactions with guests,” he said. “We aim to engage with the guest in a meaningful and relevant way.” The relatively small size of the hotels, he said, also enables more personalized service.

[post_ads]Like many luxury brands, Swire focuses intently on food and beverage. The company has a partnership with Gray Kunz, an internationally known chef, who has restaurants in the Upper House and the Middle House.

Despite the Asian influences, the properties aim to be as local as possible. Beretta said that he and his managers spent extended time in South America to find the right operators for its restaurant, Quinto La Huella, in the Miami hotel, which welcomes a significant market from South America.

Giovanni Beretta, vice president for the U.S. and general manager of East, Miami, said that while his hotel does not position itself at the top of the market it is often able to charge as much as competitors like the Mandarin Oriental and the Four Season because of the “perception” that it is a very upscale property.

Winter said Swire works with a lot of premium agents in the U.S. and has strong relationships with agent consortia. He said a major advantage of having the same parent company as Cathay Pacific Airways (Swire Group) is the ability to offer frequent fam trips.

The hotel company aims to maximize its profile, said Winter, by being a member of Preferred Hotels, through which it gets many bookings. It also participates in Preferred’ s road shows and other consumer and trade events.

Looking ahead, Winter said Swire is open to expansion in Europe, South America and elsewhere in Asia and North America. While Swire currently has equity in all of its hotels, the company is open to management contracts if it can find the right developer – “someone who understands who we are,” Winter said.

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