IHG executives detail relaunch of luxury Regent brand
IHG executives detail relaunch of luxury Regent brand
18 OCTOBER 2018 8:22 AM

Originally launched in 1971, Regent Hotels & Resorts is being updated and earmarked for extensive growth in the luxury segment as IHG looks to capitalize on its 51% ownership stake in the Asian-influenced brand.

HONG KONG—Seven months after acquiring a 51% stake in Regent Hotels & Resorts from Formosa International Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group executives on Thursday unveiled the first look at the brand’s relaunch, in conjunction with the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific.

Speaking during a press briefing at the iconic InterContinental Hong Kong, which will convert to the Regent flag in the near future, the executives said the luxury brand will sit at the apex of IHG’s brand family.

A rate premium in the range of 30% to 40% above a typical InterContinental Hotel is anticipated for Regent, according to Jolyon Bulley, CEO of Greater China for IHG.

“They’re going to need that for the return on investment and the economics of it,” he said. “It’s a significant capital investment that will go into delivering the brand.”

IHG will manage all Regent properties, rather than franchising with third-party management companies, Bulley said.

“Initially we expected the interest from the owner community to be very much Asian-based because Regent has such strong heritage here,” he said. “Since we announced the acquisition, we’ve had unprecedented interest coming out of the Middle East, where Regent really doesn’t have a heritage, from Europe and also out of the U.S. as well.”

IHG will be selective on how it grows Regent, Bulley added.

“We really see the brand going from six hotels today to 40 over the medium term,” he said. “It’s going to be very much a side-by-side partnership.”

“We want to be in key gateway cities and key gateway resorts where there’s luxury demand,” added Justin Channe, managing director of Regent Hotels & Resorts.

The company announced Thursday the signing of a deal with Multibay Development to build a Regent property in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Bulley said he doesn’t anticipate many current InterContinental Hotel properties converting to the Regent brand, but there have been selective conversations about it.

“There would be a selective few—I would say three to four would probably be in the range—but no plans at this point in time for any further conversions,” he said. “It’s just the story of this one is so strong.”

The iconic InterContinental Hong Kong, located on Victoria Harbour, was built as a Regent in 1980 and will revert to that name, Bulley said. The plan is for the property to close in 2020 for the conversion to Regent in 2021. It had been scheduled to close for major renovations last year, but that plan was scuttled when IHG acquired the Regent brand.

“It’s a billion-dollar asset, this hotel,” Bulley said. “The investment is going to be significant. We are going to close this hotel for at least a year.”

IHG’s acquisition and relaunch of the Regent brand is all about reaching a growing consumer segment, executives said. By 2025, the luxury accommodations segment will be worth $95 billion, according to Channe.

“Regent is perfectly positioned in our uppermost luxury brands to maximize on this opportunity,” he said.

Tom Rowntree, VP of global luxury brands for IHG, said three things are driving the luxury segment’s growth:

  • The continued growth of traditional luxury markets such as Europe and North America;
  • The incredible growth of the number of Chinese travelers; and
  • The rise of millennial consumers, which accounts for 45% of all luxury consumption.

“It’s an unprecedented time where you’ve got three incredible drivers driving the sector, and that’s really the core of our focus on the development of the Regent brand,” Rowntree said.

The timing of the Regent brand relaunch coincides with its 50th anniversary, approaching in 2021, executives said. The brand was founded in 1970.

“The world’s best luxury brands all have a heritage and history that makes their credibility absolutely undeniable,” Rowntree said. “As do we with the Regent brand.”

The relaunch is similar to the philosophy of the brand at its inception, he said.

“It had a very clear vision at the time, and that was to create a new style of luxury for new luxury consumers,” Rowntree said. “It’s amazing how history comes full circle.

“We have the amazing opportunity now to take this truly esteemed brand and reimagine it for a new era,” said Ginger Taggart, VP of global brand strategy at IHG.

IHG has crafted new elements pulling from the legacy and heritage of the Regent brand, she said.

According to Taggart, Regent has four hallmarks that a service level will bring to life:

  • Design innovation that is focused on creating personal havens for guests;
  • A seamless journey that involves a technology interface and a high-touch relationship;
  • Personal elements that can be added to a guest’s journey without additional costs; and
  • Taking exceptional food and beverage and combining it with multi-sensorial experiences that include local art, music or scent.

Every Regent location will have bespoke elements to tie it into its community, she added.

“The very first one is the use of color,” Taggart said. “The core color for Regent will be the color celadon, linked to the color of ancient Chinese pottery, which was once so special it could only be used by royalty.”

Other colors will accent the brand’s historical design elements, said Sangeetha Ramkumar, global design director, luxury portfolio, for IHG.

“Color has a very strong history of the language of luxury,” she said. “What we brought here was not just any color. It’s really rich regal tones to make sure the brand comes to life in a way that’s quite familiar, but also done in a way that’s very fresh, very young and very different.”

Every lobby will have an awe-inspiring moment that could be a floral arrangement, lighting, sculptures or something else that’s artistic, Ramkumar said.

Front desks will be staggered to allow more privacy for guests—one of the personal havens the brand will feature.

“Views are very big for Regent,” Ramkumar said. “We want to make sure that every property maximizes the views. Even if we don’t have a view, we want to make sure that what we design outside … somehow is designed in the Japanese and beautiful Asian theme of ‘every view is something for me to see.’”

Scents will also play an important role in Regent’s experience, executives said.

It all boils down to a major renovation of an iconic luxury brand, Channe said.

“We haven’t forgotten the strong heritage and the DNA of the Regent brand,” he said. “We’ve taken all that in, and built on that to make it meaningful for today and tomorrow.”

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