Let’s talk tech for a moment. It’s not usually the first subject that comes to mind when discussing five-star hotels, of course. Mostly, we prefer to focus on those sink-into beds, those full-size bathtubs, those rooms with a view – all of which Peninsula Hotels has in abundance.
What they also have, however, is technology – the sort of seamless, no-instruction-manual-required tech that is so simple, you barely notice it. With Peninsula’s tablet technology – currently being rolled out across the entire 10-hotel portfolio – one device runs the whole show. Want to switch on the TV, order room service, draw the curtains? Reach for the tablet, programmed in 11 different languages to accommodate the Peninsula’s international clientele.
The linked technology takes care of all the little details, too. If you are watching TV when the phone rings, the TV volume will automatically lower. If the phone rings in the middle of the night, the night light will come on. This clever system was created by the hotel’s research and technology department, the only such department belonging to a major luxury hotel group.
And that’s the Peninsula difference. This is a company that goes a step further. Yes, Peninsula’s properties are beautiful, their staff attentive: but it is the little extras that set Peninsula Hotels apart.
Entrance to The Peninsula Hong Kong
Take the Peninsula fleet. The very first hotel in the portfolio – The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong, launched in 1928 by two Iraqi brothers, Ellis and Elly Kadoorie – has long been known for its famous fleet of Rolls Royces, painted in the hotel’s signature colour, Peninsula green.
Today, every Peninsula offers its own version of stylish transportation, available for an airport pick-up or simply to go shopping or sightseeing. In some cities, chauffeur-driven Minis are on standby; in Shanghai, a motor yacht is on call. In Hong Kong, Manila and Bangkok, the hotel even has its own helipad for those who like to get their stay off to a flying start.
Peninsula’s origins may be in Asia – their second property was opened in Manila, with other hotels following in Bangkok, Shanghai and Beijing – but the company is now a global player, with properties in many of the great world cities. New York, Los Angeles and Paris all have a Peninsula of their own; London is coming up.
The company, which still has the Kadoorie family as majority shareholders, always secures the best address in town. In New York, the hotel fronts onto Fifth Avenue; the new London property will be perched on Hyde Park Corner. The Peninsula Paris has an enviable location on Avenue Kléber, which rejoices in astonishing views right across the city of light. Make the most of it by nabbing a seat in the rooftop restaurant or, if your wallet can stand the strain, book into one of the rooftop suites, each with its own terrace.
View from The Peninsula Paris
Peninsula’s rooms and suites are designed for those who love holing up in style. Interiors are elegantly understated, and include thoughtful in-room amenities. (Our favourite: the nail polish-dryer. How did we ever live without one?). WiFi is complimentary and in the more modern hotels, so are phone calls to anywhere in the world.
If exploring the city is a priority, Peninsula can help here too. The Peninsula Academy offers a series of carefully curated activities to showcase the culture of each city in which it operates.
In Hong Kong, for instance, you might choose to explore the local comics and animation culture, meeting a local artist and trying your hand at your own comic creation. Alternatively, you might sign up for a caviar master class, or perhaps a picnic in one of Hong Kong’s green spaces, which includes a drawing lesson to help you capture a lasting reminder of your day. In Paris, you can choose between activities such as a private tour of Versailles, or a day trip to Champagne, complete with the opportunity to sample a range of vintages.
The Peninsula likes to delight guests in other ways, too. One of its most innovative schemes is the partnership between the Peninsula Hong Kong and Britain’s Royal Academy. The aim is to showcase artwork in and around the hotel – but we’re not talking landscapes and still lifes.
The first artwork, shown last year, was a piece by sculptor Richard Wilson. Called Hang On A Minute Lads… I’ve Got A Great Idea, the sculpture consisted of a six-ton (almost 7,000kg) bus teetering from the hotel’s seventh-floor sun terrace. Programmed to rock up to 12 degrees at random intervals, guests were variously thrilled and alarmed by the unexpected sight. This year belongs to Conrad Shawcross, whose offering – combining sculpture, robotics and music – will sit on the cutting edge: just where Peninsula Hotels like to be.
The lobby at The Peninsula Hong Kong