Brands and not such great brands: IHG to revive fading luxury brand Regent Hotels

In June 2018 IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) acquired a 51% stake in Regent Hotels and Resorts for US$39 million in cash from Taipei’s Formosa International Hotels. Also, IHG has the right to acquire the remaining 49% interest in a phased manner from 2026.

“With the global reach, resources, marketing infrastructure and it’s existing portfolio of iconic hotels in key gateway destinations, IHG may just be the white knight that is needed to resurrect and put it’s muscle behind the sleeping Asian brand,” said Raymond Bickson, who was a GM and project manager for Regent in the late 1980s under the original partners Bob Burns, Georg Rafael and Adrian Zecha. “It can once again be a global luxury brand to be reckoned with.”

Formosa is the last of a range of owners, which have included the Four Seasons (1992-1998) and Carlson/Radisson (1998-2010) chains. Four Seasons ‘cherry picked’ the Regents at that time in development in Bali, Milan, New York and Istanbul plus the existing Beverly Wilshire and turned them into Four Seasons branded properties. Four Seasons is not the only brand operating many hotels from the ex-Regent stable (although the current Regent in Berlin is an ex Four Seasons). “Newcomers” include Westin, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott and JW Marriott, DoubleTree, Parkroyal, Millennium and… IHG.

IHG will bring Regent into its brand portfolio at the top end of the luxury segment and will accelerate its growth globally with the intention to grow the brand from seven hotels open (the Four Seasons in Shanghai was rebranded) and six under development today to over 40 hotels (10,000 rooms) in key global gateway city and resort locations over the long term. Growth will include giving some InterContinental branded hotels the opportunity to step up and rebrand as Regents.

One of those hotels under development is the original flagship in Hong Kong that will convert from InterContinental back to Regent after an extensive renovation led by owner Gaw Capital Partnership. Originally built as The Regent Hong Kong in 1980, the hotel was rebranded to InterContinental Hong Kong in June 2001. The hotel, located at Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront, has closed on 20 April 2020 with a targeted reopening in 2022. The renovation includes all guest rooms and suites, all public areas, restaurants and event venues, as well as a redesign of the building façade with a contemporary design. During the renovation, Yan Toh Heen, the hotel’s 1-Michelin star Cantonese restaurant, will remain open with access through the K11 Musea mall located next to the hotel.

So which IHG properties could step up as Regents?

My top choice would be Le Palace Hôtel in Brussels, which is now operated as a Crowne Plaza (another IHG brand). This Art Nouveau (a style which originated in Brussels) “géométrique” gem, which opened in 1910, and still has many period details, inside and out. Unlike its neighbour on Place Rogier, the Hotel Indigo (originally Hotel Albert 1er, 1929) or opposite on the square, the 1932 Art Deco Hotel Siru. And not speaking about the massive shuttered Sheraton, also on Place Rogier, where nothing seems to happen – and possibly the subject of a whole new post about the revival of Sheraton. The owner of Le Palace, Swedish Pandox (which also own the Indigo), has big plans extending and renovating the Palace – see below. Le Palace Hotel, Regent Brussels -much better than Crowne Plaza, don’t you agree?

In 2018 Foncière des Régions (now Covivio), one of the largest investment funds, bought British hotel chain Principal Hotels, which underwent numerous changes over the years with different owners and an ever changing portfolio of hotels. Management contracts were exchanged to IHG, who branded most of the Principal Hotels to their InterContinental, Kimpton and voco brands. 3 hotels remain in the Principal portfolio, of which two would be great Regents. The Principal York is the grand, 1878 opened Royal Station Hotel. It underwent renovations in 2016 and practically is ready to be rebranded to The Royal Station, Regent York.

The present Principal York, the former Royal Station Hotel.

In Leeds, The Metropolitan, opened in 1899 is a grand hotel with a rare and remarkable Victorian terracotta facade. The cupola on the roof was taken from the demolished 4th White Cloth Hall, built in 1868 on the same site. Principal renovated the hotel in 2005 (so it really needs arevamp) and renamed it the more trendy sounding “The Met”. So revamp needed to bring it back to its former galmour and The Metropolitan, Regent Leeds is born.

The Met, or Metropolitan Hotel, in Leeds.

As Regent now operates two hotels in England, it needs a hotel in London too. Possibly the Landmark London, (also) a 1899 and grand station hotel, which between 1993 and 1995 operated as the Regent London. It is owned by a Thai company operating several hotels in London and the hotel still uses the same logotype as Regent. Their Bangkok Landmark Hotel would also work as a Regent, as Bangkok is a key city to operate in. But back to IHG…

The Landmark, London hotel – (re)opened as The Regent, London in 1993.

Of cities with two InterContinentals, Sydney would be an obvious choice to convert one into a Regent. In its heyday as a Ritz-Carlton the hotel was the epicentre for guests wanting a night away from the spotlight ranging from Princess Diana, Madonna and the Clintons, to the controversial death of INXS front man, Michael Hutchence. Dubbed “Double Pay” in Sydney due to its exclusivity, the ritzy suburb is located 4 kilometres (2 miles) east of the Central Business District. Sydney as once home to the iconic The Regent Sydney, now the Four Seasons. Now its is time for The Double Bay Hotel, Regent Sydney.

In the Middle East, there is Doha and Dubai with three InterContinentals and Riyadh, Madinah and Cairo with two. Welcome, Regent Doha, Regent Dubai, Regent Riyadh, Regent Madinah and Regent Cairo (these last three really need updates).

In San Francisco, it is time to the glamour back to the grand, 1926 Mark Hopkins Hotel. Once managed by Regent. San Francisco won’t be mourning, as it has another InterContinental.

Also, in North America there is Los Angeles. New York, Washington, Toronto, Miami and Mexico City with two InterContinentals. In Vietnam both Hanoi and Saigon have two. And in Seoul and Tokyo there are opportunities for Regent. Is the resurrection coming?

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