On November 25, 2016, an anniversary year celebrating the distinguished heritage of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited (HSH) reached its pinnacle today, as HSH paid homage to its 150 years in operation at an exquisite gala party held at one of its most acclaimed icons, The Peninsula Hong Kong. Originally incorporated on 2 March 1866 as The Hongkong Hotel Company, Limited, HSH was one of the first companies to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and is currently the oldest registered company on the Hong Kong Companies Registry. For a century and a half, the compelling story of HSH has been closely tied to its city of origin, Hong Kong.
Standing indomitably, both as Hong Kong’s oldest hotel and as the flagship of The Peninsula Hotels, The Peninsula Hong Kong proved the perfect backdrop for HSH to celebrate its storied heritage, while looking to the future. HSH’s unwavering pledge to emulate the standards of service and style that earned it the accolade of “The Far East’s leading hotel company” with the over-arching concept of “Tradition well served” that has remained fundamental to the company’s ethos for the past 150 years, were very much in evidence.
“Anniversaries are a time to pause and reflect, to recall the events that have shaped us, and the individuals whose legacies have played a beneficial role in Hong Kong’s success story,” declared The Honourable Sir Michael Kadoorie, Chairman of HSH, in his opening address. “The future is built on the past, and the events that shaped our history also govern our current operations. Behind our international reputation lies our ethos of community responsibility and a belief in the importance of integrity and sustainability. In this anniversary year, our team reminds Hong Kong of its rich history, thereby hoping to enable the whole community to share in our heritage.”
With the HSH legacy encompassing a diverse portfolio of assets worth HK$45.3 billion including ten Peninsula Hotels around the world, The Peak Tram, The Peak Tower and The Repulse Bay Complex in Hong Kong, the gala’s star attraction proved to be a series of 7 giant helium balloons anchored onto the hotel’s legendary façade. Marking the first time in Hong Kong history that helium balloons of such a scale have been publicly displayed on a Grade I-listed heritage landmark, HSH originally commissioned 8 giant balloons in the form of the company’s most iconic and recognisable assets.
With each balloon created in Arizona, USA, by Ken Moody of Big Ideas Parade Giants Studio, and taking a record 30-days to be designed, sewn, assembled, and hand-finished, before being shipped to Hong Kong, this is the first time that 7 of HSH’s curated collection of giant helium balloons – including inflated renditions of The Peak Tram; The Peak Tower; The Repulse Bay Complex; The Peninsula’s Phantom II vintage Rolls-Royce; The Peninsula’s MD902 Helicopter; the HSH-themed Montgolfière-style balloon – named after the inventors of the world’s first passenger-carrying hot air balloon, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, and even a giant Peninsula Pageboy – has been showcased together, in what will become a travelling exhibition to HSH properties around the world in 2017. Only The Peninsula Hong Kong-shaped balloon was not displayed during the gala, so as not to duplicate The Peninsula’s already iconic façade!
“We are the oldest registered company in Hong Kong – and we believe we are one of the oldest hotel groups in the world in continuous operation,” said Mr Clement Kwok, Chief Executive Officer of HSH. “If you look at our history, HSH has always been an adventurous and pioneering company. The company took risks to build The Peninsula Hong Kong in Kowloon, The Repulse Bay and The Peak Tram in the early days of Hong Kong , and these investments proved to be immensely successful. It is due to that pioneering spirit that we now have these amazing assets in both Hong Kong and overseas. We are 150 years old, but we are a company that is still at a youthful stage in our development and growth strategy. We are building for the future and to celebrate our anniversary, we would like to say thank you to the people of Hong Kong.”
The eagerly-anticipated gala celebrations had, in fact, unofficially begun earlier in the day, with 150 youth volunteers from exemplary Hong Kong educational institutions including the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU); Vocational Training Council (VTC); Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), dressed in the crisp white uniforms of The Peninsula’s Pageboys and Pagegirls, and congregating on the hotel’s Helipad for a dramatic commemorative aerial photo opportunity that spelt the words “HSH 150” in human formation.
Later, as a November sun set on Victoria Harbour and the Grande Dame of Hong Kong – who has presided over it since 1928 – the 2,000 invited guests began to arrive at the gala. Greeted in the Forecourt by a giant helium balloon adorned with the HSH 150th anniversary logo, and flanked by two vintage Rolls-Royces, including a 1936 Phantom III from Sir Michael’s private collection, in a nod to The Peninsula’s famed fleet of Rolls-Royces, guests entered The Peninsula’s iconic Lobby, festooned with balloons. Here, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, renowned Hong Kong actress Ms Sarah Song, welcomed guests and introduced the gala’s guest of honour: Chief Executive of the Government of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, The Honourable C Y Leung, GBM, GBS, JP. Chief Secretary for Administration of the Government of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, The Honourable Mrs Carrie Lam, GBM, JP also in attendance at the VIP reception earlier in the evening.
Invited on stage to address the audience, Mr. CY Leung paid homage to HSH’s pivotal historic role as a bastion of the community and an exemplary corporate advocate of Hong Kong. In his opening comments, Sir Michael extended a warm welcome to guests and delivered a moving speech in which he traced HSH’s origins and key historical milestones, charting the rise of The Hongkong Hotel Company in the 1880s and later The Shanghai Hotels, Limited, in 1922. Sir Michael also paid homage to the collective legacies of his father, Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, and uncle, Sir Horace Kadoorie, both living embodiments in their day of the company’s pledge to “pursue excellence without compromise, striving for the highest standards of quality and service” with a steadfast commitment to the long term.
Humbly citing himself as a representative of the third generation of the family to be associated with HSH, he offered a revealing glimpse into the future, adding: “In turn, I have every confidence that the next generation will be equally committed.”
Following the symbolic unveiling of a commemorative plaque by Mr CY Leung and Sir Michael, a rousing live choral rendition of the Louis Armstrong jazz classic, “What a Wonderful World” marked the official start of the HSH 150th anniversary gala, as the night’s ebullient festivities began apace.
Meanwhile, the hotel’s back-of-house was a hive of frenetic activity, as its teams worked in perfect concert, celebrating the art of hospitality and refined gastronomy that has cemented The Peninsula’s reputation as Hong Kong’s ultimate gala venue for the past nine decades. Showcasing a decadent menu of gastronomic delights developed by The Peninsula Hotels’ Group Executive Chef Florian Trento, with The Peninsula Hong Kong’s Executive Sous Chef Ludovic Douteau and their talented kitchen teams, guests indulged in copious amounts of caviar, canapés, and sumptuous dessert buffets, which were created by award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Frank Hasnoot and his expert team of bakers, pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
The fruits of their meticulous labour included thousands of cream puffs, verrines of seasonal fruit and dessert tarts with the heady scents of tonka bean, chocolate, raspberry, lemon and hand-roasted nuts, delicate petit-fours, artisanal chocolates and sweetmeats, perfectly rounded off by over 225 kg of ice cream. At The Verandah, The Peninsula’s international buffet restaurant, a chocolate buffet blanketed with African-origin cocoa beans and stands carved out of 50 kg of solid chocolate, played host to live waffle, churros, and crème brulée stations. Meanwhile, the sweets buffet overflowed with over 200 kg of assorted candy.
For an historic occasion that called for nothing but the best, 153 different varieties of handmade canapés and deluxe food items highlighted the cuisine of all 7 of The Peninsula’s award-winning restaurants, including The Lobby, Gaddi’s, Spring Moon, The Verandah, Imasa and Felix; with a curated list of fine wines, Champagnes and spirits carefully selected to pair perfectly with dishes. These amounted to:
- 2000 bottles of Champagne and wine
- 50 bottles of premium spirits for mixing craft cocktails
- 2 kg of Beluga caviar from farmed Amur River sturgeon
- 2450 pieces of sushi
- 4850 pieces of sashimi
- 2700 kg solid blocks of ice, carved into 5 ice sculptures adorning The Lobby and 1/F restaurants
- 100 kg of chocolate
- 200 kg of assorted candy
- Deutz – The Peninsula Hotels’ Champagne partner for over 26 years – saw to it that glasses overflowed throughout the night
- Highlights from the hotel’s extensive wine cellar featured The Peninsula’s celebrated house wines including The Peninsula’s signature red wine, The Peninsula Saint-Estèphe by La Chapelle de Calon from Bordeaux and signature white wine, The Peninsula Chablis 1er Cru by Olivier Leflaive from Burgundy
Throughout the hotel, a playful, visually-arresting abundance of balloons adorned The Peninsula Hong Kong’s iconic spaces, in addition to the 7 majestic HSH giant helium balloons on the façade and at street level, with a raft of fascinating balloon facts related to the HSH 150th Anniversary commission:
- 8 HSH giant helium balloons were originally commissioned by HSH in the form of the company’s most recognisable assets: The Peak Tram; The Peak Tower; The Repulse Bay Complex; The Peninsula Hong Kong; The Peninsula’s Phantom II vintage Rolls-Royce; The Peninsula’s MD902 Helicopter, and even a giant Peninsula Pageboy; as well as the HSH-themed Montgolfière-style balloon named after the inventors of the world’s first passenger-carrying hot air balloon in 1783, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier
- Each giant helium balloon ranges from 60 feet (18 metres) high to 66 feet (20 metres) wide
- It took 9 months and over 10,000 man hours to build the balloons
- 5100 yards (4663 metres) of fabric was used to construct the balloons – enough fabric to wrap Hong Kong’s tallest peak, Tai Mo Shan (957m/3140ft high), almost five times
- 150 gallons of proprietary paint were used to achieve the rich depth of colour and unique patina of each balloon – enough paint to fill three-and-a-half bathtubs
- This is the largest project that Big Ideas Parade Giants Studio has ever completed
- An airport hangar had to be leased in Arizona in order to inflate and complete the balloons
- 2000 cubic metres of helium were used to inflate the giant balloons for The Peninsula gala – enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool
- All four giant helium balloons on The Peninsula’s 7/F Sun Terrace were tethered by a total of 64 anchor points
- All four giant helium balloons were balanced by 10 tonnes of counterweights on the roofs of The Peninsula’s 7/F Garden Suite and Fitness Centre
- Each of the three HSH giant helium balloons at street level on Salisbury Road, was tethered to three custom-built platforms, each with 10 anchor points per balloon
- 7,488 small helium balloons decorated the hotel’s interior public spaces
- 10 experienced “Balloon Captains” led by Ken Moody travelled from the US to Hong Kong to manage a crew of more than 80 workers required to help deflate and inflate the balloons
As the festivities continued late into the night, of what will undoubtedly come to be remembered as one of the parties of the century, HSH directors, guests, hotel guests, employees and the Kadoorie family, collectively paid homage to the enduring legacy of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited.
In a touching tribute to his grandfather, Sir Elly Kadoorie, and to HSH’s resilient, ever-changing birthplace, Hong Kong; Sir Michael remarked: “During our long history, we have always combined the graciousness of the past with the most modern innovations of the day… In 1928, when Acting Governor Southorn delivered a speech at the opening of The Peninsula, he said: “The success of this hotel is not a thing of today or tomorrow. The inspiration which gave rise to this building is the inspiration of the future: that the greatness of Hong Kong is in the future and not in the past.” I find those prescient words are as inspiring now as I am sure they were then.
Sir Michael continued: “The Kadoorie family has always remained fully committed to the company and this will continue with the next generation as we continue to play a role in creating the future. To you, the people of Hong Kong, my sincere appreciation and thanks for your unfailing support throughout the years.”
About The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited (HSH)
Incorporated in 1866 and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (00045), The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited is the holding company of a Group which is engaged in the ownership, development, and management of prestigious hotels and commercial and residential properties in key locations in Asia, the United States and Europe, as well as the provision of tourism and leisure, club management and other services. The Peninsula Hotels portfolio comprises The Peninsula Hong Kong, The Peninsula Shanghai, The Peninsula Beijing, The Peninsula Tokyo, The Peninsula Bangkok, The Peninsula Manila, The Peninsula New York, The Peninsula Chicago, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, and The Peninsula Paris. Projects under development include The Peninsula London and The Peninsula Yangon. The property portfolio of the Group includes The Repulse Bay Complex, The Peak Tower, The Peninsula Office Tower and St. John’s Building in Hong Kong; The Landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; 1-5 Grosvenor Place in London, UK, and 21 avenue Kléber in Paris, France. The clubs and services portfolio of the Group includes The Peak Tram in Hong Kong; Thai Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand; Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, California; Peninsula Clubs and Consultancy Services, Peninsula Merchandising, and Tai Pan Laundry in Hong Kong.
 As at 30 June 2016