A Regal Experience at Hong Kong
Photos and Interview by MARLON ALDENESE
Filipinos love a bargain and judging from a cursory survey of those going to Hong Kong despite the protests, or maybe Pinoys travel because of it in lieu of perceived bargains—Filipinos are certainly not deterred. As a country, we are no strangers to protest and know that disturbance is often localized to a certain part of the city or a country. There is also a certain admiration in the David and Goliath dynamic of the student-led movement, who have been careful in respecting tourists who visit the city-state.
For Hong Kong, the Philippines is considered an important growing market. They are also familiar with the many Filipino workers that work in Hong Kong. Dennis Dulay, the Front Office Assistant Manager of Regal Kowloon Hotel is one of them. “I don’t know what medicine he takes, but he’s always happy and smiling and bubbly,” said Christo Diamandopoulos, General Manager of Regal Hotels International of Dulay. “We need to get the same medicine”.
Diamandopoulos knows too well Filipinos’ penchant for the Holiday season. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony is a big tradition in Kowloon where the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) shopping and nightlife district lights up at the same time. “You see the parts all along the riverfront as well, so the main attraction is to go take some great photography with your cameras or phones. So that starts the spirit up,” he said. In Victoria Harbour from the whole period of December to January, families gather for kiddie rides as well as watch performances of different musicians and artists. There’s a lot of Catholic Churches between the area and most hotels are strategically placed where there’s a Catholic Church just a stone’s throw away. Regal Kowloon Hotel is near St. Mary’s and Rosary Church where a nativity scene is a welcome sight for Filipinos celebrating the season in the city.
Shopping and Entertainment
Of course, Filipinos also go to Hongkong for shopping. Popular haunts include IFC Mall, and Harbour City with the recently opened K11 MUSEA joining the fray. “That’s a brand new concept with decorations, and it’s really created a real buzz in our area to have the K11 MUSEA here.
Christmas sales usually start December, so when they see all the Christmas lighting, the campaign in the shopping malls, they usually get all the sales in the shops,” Diamandopoulos said.
Filipinos are generally familiar with Hong Kong’s tourist sites, and perhaps, the Philippine’s highest grossing film to date “Hello, Love, Goodbye”, which was shot almost entirely in Hong Kong, is going to encourage more Filipinos to see for themselves the locations where the scenes were shot. “There’s a lot of activities, and there are a lot of historical sites in the area, too.
It’s got such a diverse history and hiking trails. Then there are the museums and all around here are science parks and science museums, and then they have exhibitions—we have the Star Wars exhibitions, King Pharaoh Egyptian. So there’s always been, there’s always something happening. This time of the year is all the concerts, and you know, I don’t speak any Chinese, but I’ve been to four concerts, four because of the color and decorations. It’s fantastic!” raved Diamandopoulos. “And then we’ve got Matilda, Phantom of the Opera is coming. We’ve had the Titanic, the orchestra and ballet—it’s an entertainment country/culture.”
Hong Kong has always been known as one of the best destinations for dining, and they are often ahead of the curve in terms of trends. “I’m always getting a lot of information about brand new trends,” says Diamondopoulos. “I’ve never been to a country where I can get Peruvian or Nepalese food unless you go to Peru or Nepal, but I can do it here. I think the trend is to keep on making new trends so you have to keep on coming back.” One of the trends at Regal Hotel according to Diamondopoulos has been brunch. “I think brunch has become a really popular situation in Hong Kong. We only started this year, which has been quite well-received. It’s starting to have a resurgence, and buffets started to decline, but now I think, it’s back again because it’s such a family tradition. We’re finding our buffet restaurants full at the moment, and that hasn’t been happening for a while. And then afternoon teas are still popular, not just for value for money but also experience as well. Popping up are tea shops, and they have become popular for locals. Whenever you see a cue and you’re on a holiday, you want to try or have similar experiences.”
Regal Court at the Regal Hotel is a traditional Cantonese restaurant that the hotel is famous for. They count 15 signature dishes from the Dim Sum alone. The sautéed prawns with garlic and chili is also often talked about, as is the Smoked Crispy Chicken with Supreme Tea Leaves. The restaurant also specializes in barbecued meats done in-house, which is one of their most raved about dishes. “You could go to other restaurants and say it’s really nice, but with Regal Court it’s, ‘I remember this dish or that dish’’, said Diamandopoulos. “We try to combine the menu with some good wines, and also we have a variety of drinks specials in the form of teas, which is not just your normal jasmine, but we also got ones that are aromatic like chrysanthemum. We have different plums and so we put them in season on the year because some of the teas are only suitable for either winter or summer.”
You could say the Regal brand has been branching out. Regal Hotel is the traditional, leisure, and business brand that dots key areas in Hong Kong. They are forming a new brand called Skycity Regala, which they intend to be very innovative and funky. It will have one of the largest ballrooms and will have interactive dining. The iClub is geared towards the millennial traveler, characterized by frequent travelers who jet in and out for holidays. “It’s more about accommodation—at the end of the day the basic needs of sleep, wash, privacy, [and] security are met. If you have a certain need, you know you have something to choose from. And we didn’t have that maybe five years ago,” Diamandopoulos said. These newer hotels are also built with environmental issues in mind, such as waste management and energy efficiency.
According to Diamandopoulos, the next step is artificial intelligence cameras. The Regal Hotels try to keep up with trends, and these days the emphasis is on sustainability. “I think the hotel industry has always been one where anything that is good for the planet or trends, they’re the first ones to do it. That’s why I like working in this industry, we stay up with the times.”