Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong: world’s highest hotel

Ritz Carlton HK Suite

Nine years ago, Ritz-Carlton closed their sole Hong Kong property, which had been operating for 15 years. But there were two good reasons for its early demise: Firstly, its small size had made it uncompetitive and secondly, they had a much bigger plan for its replacement. Three years later, in 2011, they unveiled the new Hong Kong Ritz-Carlton, occupying the top 17 floors of the International Commerce Centre (ICC), at the time the fourth highest skyscraper in the world. But much more importantly, Ritz-Carlton now boasted the highest hotel in the world, an important cachet and marketing tool for the brand.Ritz Carlton Hong Kong Swimming poolCreating 21st Century tourist and leisure attractions is about superlatives – the best, the highest, the first. This is the language that hotel brands use to mark out their territory and rivalry against each other. For the guest, the benefit is clear – a high hotel offers great views and the cachet of waking up and seeing the city beneath you. But after several years’ experience, what is it like to work in such a high environment on a day-to-day basis?GM Pierre Perusset Ritz Carlton Hong Kong Pierre Perusset, General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, is the man to ask:

“We don’t have problems, we have challenges. Because, although we’re in the center of Hong Kong, we are also an island on our own at the top of a huge building. This means that the most important features for us are the lifts – there are 80 in total, servicing the hotel, the offices, the mall, and train station. The lifts act like a vertical subway, so getting the lift in this building is like getting the train commute to work. We rely on them to deliver food, supplies, and people.”Ritz Carlton Hong Kong SpaThe Ritz-Carlton also boasts three other ‘world’s highests’: The spa designed by HBA on the 116th floor, which recently redeveloped its treatments; on the top 118th floor, the Ozone Bar, designed by Tokyo’s Wonder-Wall and the pool. (There is a bar in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on a higher numeric floor, but actually it is on a lower altitude because the height of each floor in that building is different.)

Catering preparations at this height also bring about challenges for the hotel’s six restaurants, ten kitchens and 125 chefs. All ingredients have to come from the ground floor via service elevators and it can take five to fifteen minutes to load trolleys and arrive.

Paul Lau Chef Ritz Carlton Hong KongChef Paul Lau has been in charge of the hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, Tin Lung Heen, since the opening in 2011 and has overseen every detail that has lead to its success and the awarding of two Michelin stars for the fifth year in a row: “The temperature and air pressure is slightly different at this height so we had to develop the menu and techniques to get certain things exactly right, for example frying the deep fried crispy chicken. It’s important to get everything right, as we make all the dishes on this 102nd floor – nothing is brought up prepared.”

The future of our cities is high-rise, for living, working and leisure, but also for cities to forge their own identity and branding. And hotels will occupy more and more of this high ground as Pierre Perusset knows and is only too accustomed with: “Working in any high hotel is unique. And with the amazing views and the challenges, I think managing this hotel is the best job in the world. It even keeps me fit. My office is on the 117th floor, so I often walk the hotel, up or down, using the staircases. It’s great exercise!”Ritz Carlton Hong Kong view

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

312 Rooms

Architects: Kohn Pederson Fox (USA)

Public areas, Café 103, Rooms & Suites: LTW Designworks (Singapore)

Spa: Hirsch Bedner Associates (USA)

Restaurants on Level 102: SPIN (Japan)

Ozone bar (Level 118): Wonder-Wall (Japan)

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