Not even a decade old, Swire Hotels has already created quite the buzz across Asia’s high-end hospitality landscape. With 2008’s opening of Beijing’s Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Opposite House, not to mention subsequent debuts in Hong Kong (2009’s Four-Star The Upper House), Chengdu (The Temple House in 2015) and Shanghai (soon-to-open The Middle House), Swire has shown a level of consistency and commitment to rival brands much older.
The trend only continues with the placement of Toby Smith, a 25-plus-year airline industry veteran, as Swire Hotels’ managing director. We recently chatted with the U.K. native about his brand’s mission, Shanghai’s charm and Asia’s hospitality future.
When global travelers think of the name “Swire Hotels,” what sorts of things do you immediately want to come to mind?
We want our guests to associate Swire Hotels with individuality, sophisticated design and amazing service.
For those who’ve never stayed at The Opposite House, The Upper House or any of your other properties, what have they been missing?
All our hotels strive for extremely personalized service and we treat each guest as a valued individual. The House Collective — which includes The Opposite House, The Temple House, The Upper House and soon The Middle House — are intimate boutique hotels designed for the traveler who seeks both luxury and authentic local experiences. From designer afternoon teas to gallery-curated art collections, there is always something new to discover.
Our East hotels, including East, Hong Kong; East, Beijing; and East, Miami, cater to the “business traveler with a life” with 24-hour gyms and cafés where guests can get a quick bite to eat.
Although these two brands are different, they share the Swire commitment of going above and beyond to create the best guest experience possible.
When you look across Asia’s high-end hotel landscape today, what do you see?
Over the last decade, we’ve seen an influx of international hospitality firms moving into Asia. Today’s travelers value authentic experiences over material possessions and place a premium on convenience.
Luxury hotels around the world and in Asia recognize this. We are happy to see hotels taking an increased interest in art and design, fine dining and implementing new technologies to make guests’ lives easier.
What should travelers expect from Shanghai’s new The Middle House?
The Middle House is the seventh hotel from Swire Hotels. It will be an elegant and calm oasis amidst Shanghai’s historic Dazhongli neighborhood and next to fashionable Nanjing Road West.
Designed by award-winning Italian architect Piero Lissoni, the hotel is a blend of Eastern and Western elements.
The hotel will also have many amenities, which will help our guests feel at home, such as an indoor heated swimming pool, 24-hour gym facilities and a wellness studio with classes like yoga by Lululemon. Guests can expect a selection of dining options, from the European café concept Café Gray Deluxe to the Italian eatery Frasca.
What makes Shanghai such a special city in your eyes?
Shanghai is a cosmopolitan city with a rich history and is a place of convergence for the international community. It is a city of juxtaposition, a harmonious blend of East and West, heritage and modernity.
Traditional shikumen alleyway housing stands side by side with the skyscrapers along the Bund, and international Michelin chefs cook alongside street food vendors. This contrast is what we hope to convey to guests who stay at The Middle House.
The restaurant division is also very important to the brand. What does the future look like for that aspect of the company?
Our restaurant division, Swire Restaurants, was founded in 2013 and includes a wide collection of dining experiences, such as French bistro Plat du Jour, contemporary restaurant Public, The Continental and modern steakhouse Mr and Mrs Fox. All of these are located next to our hotels in the connected mixed-use developments like Taikoo Li [in Beijing] and Pacific Place [in Hong Kong].
Although we don’t currently have plans for any new restaurants in the future, we are focusing on ensuring that our restaurants obtain food from sustainable sources and use quality local ingredients.