Chief Operating Officer
The Peninsula Hotels
With the worldwide travel industry in flux, battered by a difficult economy and various other crises, Peninsula Hotels is moving forward in its typical sure and steady manner. Recently, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief, Douglas Gollan, had breakfast with Peninsula Chief Operating Officer Peter Borer on the refurbished pool deck of his New York hotel and discussed the brand’s strategy during these times as well as plans for expansion and dedication to the purity of the product.
ET: So what’s new?
Peter Borer: We are opening The Peninsula Shanghai this fall. It is located on the world-famous Bund, with spectacular views along the Bund, the Huangpu River and Pudong. It is a return to our roots. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited [Peninsula Hotels parent] owned and operated four grand hotels early last century. The Peninsula, Shanghai is 235 rooms and reflects Shanghai’s Art Deco elegance.
ET: Is there anything of particular interest for elite travelers at the hotel?
Peter Borer: The Palace Suite features an incredible 12,000-square-foot outdoor terrace. It is an amazing space for events, weddings or just for personal pleasure.
ET: What else is on the drawing board?
Peter Borer: We will open Paris in 2012. Located in a magnificent historic building, formerly The Hotel Majestic on Avenue Kleber, just off the Arc de Triomphe on the prestigious Champs Elysees, The Peninsula Paris will mark our arrival in Europe.
India, Australia and London are very interesting as well, and we are continuing to look for opportunities. Of course, in each new property we will have a significant ownership so our growth is not fast as it is with companies that just go after management agreements.
ET: Other luxury groups are getting into residences, destination clubs and fractional residences. Can we expect the same for Peninsula Hotels?
Peter Borer: In Shanghai we have 40 apartments for sale. This is the first time we’re doing that. But we are dedicated to absolute brand purity. We won’t be doing the other things you mentioned. We have a very clear identity and we will not risk it.
ET: To address the economic crisis, some hotels are slashing rates, but also closing or alternating when restaurants are open, cutting back on hours of facilities and such. What is Peninsula doing?
Peter Borer: We haven’t laid anyone off. We have moved to shortened hours or shorter weeks. It is expensive to train people in Peninsula service, then let them go, and then a year later have to go out and hire new people and train them all over again. We haven’t shortened the hours of operations for any of our facilities or closed any of our facilities. In good times, you make a comfortable nest, and in these times we are able to live from that nest. The guests who are willing to pay a premium expect full service and that’s what we provide them.
ET: Any renovations or changes at your existing properties?
Peter Borer: New York has undergone a soft refurbishment with half the guests rooms done this year and half next. As you probably noticed the spa and pool have been completely redone and on the rooftop we have our new chic bar, Salon de Ning.
In Hong Kong we opened a Salon de Ning in the basement of the shopping arcade. In Manila we are in the process of creating a new restaurant that will pay tribute to Filipino craftsmanship and design. Also at Repulse Bay we have launched new shops and restaurants.
ET: You have a long-standing relationship with Rolls-Royce and your chairman has an affinity for fine cars. Anything new on that front?
Peter Borer: Shanghai will get the latest version of the Peninsula Rolls-Royce, of course, completely custom. They will also get a 1934 Phantom, and we will launch a Peninsula BMW.
ET: Can you buy The Peninsula BMW?
Peter Borer: No, you have to stay with us to enjoy it!