During the eighties, Regent Hotels shot to the pinnacle of the ultra-luxe segment of the hotel industry. From a dazzling flagship in Hong Kong and lobbies in New York, Beverly Hills (the Pretty Woman hotel), Singapore and Sydney, and a pipeline that included literally dozens of the most glamorous projects, multiple ownership changes and years of misdirection had left the group with a small base of top properties but in scale far behind many other younger luxury brands. With two major openings on the horizon, a new owner from the past and one of the industry’s most respected hoteliers at the helm, Regent is looking to become relevant again. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan dined with President Ralf Ohletz Count von Plettenberg during the International Luxury Travel Mart in Cannes.
ET: What’s the current footprint?
Ralf Ohletz: We currently have hotels in Beijing, Berlin, Phuket, Singapore, Taipei and Turks & Caicos. (Other announced projects include Doha and Abu Dhabi).
ET: And what’s next?
Ralf Ohletz: Regent Phuket Cape Panwa in Phuket is situated in a totally private bay yet is 45 minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from Phuket Town and 30 minutes from Patong Beach. It features 105 units comprising 35 Pool Villas, 48 Suites and 222 Pavilions. There is 24-hour private butler service. Bali is next and then we have a project in Porto Montenegro, which is very popular with superyachts and has a large marina. The goal is to have 20 additional hotels and resorts in the next ten years. Opening two a year is the right pace.
ET: What about size?
Ralf Ohletz: We think 200 to 250 rooms is the maximum, maybe smaller, and depending on location, some variations. For example in Asia, as much as 50 percent of revenue comes from food and beverage including weddings. There is also local adaption, for example, Asian guests like the outdoor lifestyle but don’t like the direct sun, so in Bali we have large covered verandas.
ET: What about bringing back some of the old Regent flair?
Ralf Ohletz: I worked 25 years with (Regent co-founder) Adrian Zecha. When Adrian formed GHM in 1992, I joined him and we created The Datai Langkawi, The Chedi Muscat, The Legian Bali and The Setai Miami to name a few. At the conference here everyone is talking about experiences, but that’s what Regent was about 30 years ago. When you walked into the lobby in Hong Kong, it wasn’t about art on the walls, it was the stunning view of the harbor. What Regent and GHM did was about experience. In Miami with The Setai, it was about being part of the South Beach experience with the beautiful people, but not coming back to your room and hearing the boom of the dance music from two floors below or above. Regent always had the three Bs – Bed, Breakfast and Bathroom. Regent was the first to have a separate shower so you didn’t have to step into the bathtub, and the first to separate the toilet. We are going to add a fourth B, bespoke. In every room and every area, everything is personally sourced. You won’t find chairs ordered from a catalog.
ET: Where does technology fit in?
Ralf Ohletz: It’s simplified technology anyone can use. We will have tablets you can do anything with, from ordering room service to changing the temperature or even watching television, but we will also have the traditional switches.
ET: What brought you to Regent?
Ralf Ohletz: Taipei-based FIH Regent Group owns the Regent Taipei, and they bought the brand about two and a half years ago.
ET: Any final thoughts?
Ralf Ohletz: We were in the boutique hotel business before all the big groups discovered it. We are bringing Regent back with a focused approach. It’s going to be all about the guest experience.
Entrance and Lobby / Regent Berlin
Fischers Fritz / Regent Berlin
Pool Villa & Suite / Regent Phuket
Pool Villa / Regent Phuket
Pool Villa / Regent Phuket