Redefining Hong Kong Hospitality

Simon Manning, managing director of Nina Hospitality, discusses Hong Kong’s hospitality scene, changing business travel expectations, and global expansion plans.

Firstly, what is Nina Hotels and how does it fit into the Hong Kong hospitality scene?

Based in Hong Kong SAR, China, Nina Hospitality is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinachem Group. It operates and manages a portfolio from midscale to upper upscale hotels and serviced apartments with almost 3,000 rooms and residences under two brands: Nina Hotels and Lodgewood. The Group currently offers a great variety of accommodation – five hotels, two residences and one university lodging. We are also the biggest wedding operator as we can cater over 1,000 guests in one of the largest ballrooms in Hong Kong.

Being fun is deeply rooted in Nina’s heart, we take great pride in providing an entertaining, authentic, and delightful experience that go beyond the ordinary.  As a homegrown Hong Kong brand, we create vibrant spaces that spark connections and inspirations. Guided by our forward thinking mindset, personalised service and thoughtful surprises ensure that our guests enjoy memorable experiences at every level.

Simon Manning, managing director of Nina Hospitality, discusses Hong Kong's hospitality scene, changing business travel expectations, and

You have properties across the city; what do you look for in a destination before you expand into it? Will we see Nina hotels branch out beyond Hong Kong in the coming years?

All our properties are located in the key neighbourhoods of the city with easy accessibility, where guests will find historical stories, crafts, food, entertainment and culture nearby. We have spent the past two years strengthening our brand, strengthening our performance above market level, and upgrading our products and services. We are now ready for expansion, and we are looking for opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, London, Singapore, and Sydney in short term.

How have business travellers’ expectations changed post-pandemic and how does Nina meet these needs?

Business travellers’ expectations have changed significantly post-pandemic, where safety and hygiene protocols have become a top priority, along with flexible cancellation policies. At Nina, we have implemented rigorous health and safety measures to ensure the well-being of our guests. We also offer flexible booking options to accommodate changing travel plans, from 7-night to 21-night long stay packages, with club access or dining offers, to residential offerings, we aim to catering different needs of our guests.

Simon Manning, managing director of Nina Hospitality, discusses Hong Kong's hospitality scene, changing business travel expectations, and

During the pandemic, we repositioned the brand from a local midscale operator to a multi-brand hospitality group. With our goal of developing new products and experiences that align with current trends and engage the community, it will meet the growth of “Bleisure” travel.

To name a few, we launched Nina Communal at Nina Hotel Kowloon East, a club lounge (above) offering a range of amenities for eating and drinking, socialising, relaxing, co-working, and playing; and newly renovated suites with kitchenette at Nina Hotel Tsuen Wan West. We also strengthened our food and beverage offerings, from our new flagship Chinese restaurant RÚ, enhanced southeast Asian buffet at I-O-N Wong Chuk Hang and special promotions for our semi buffet at I-O-N Kwun Tong, to adding value packages at canton pot, our hotpot restaurant, as well as our pastry specialist Nina Patisserie.

You had previous roles with Marriott and Langham in Hong Kong; has the city retained its sought-after status among business travellers after reopening?

Hong Kong has always been a sought-after destination for business travellers, the city’s strategic location, vibrant business environment, and world-class infrastructure make it an ideal choice for business travellers.

Simon Manning, managing director of Nina Hospitality, discusses Hong Kong's hospitality scene, changing business travel expectations, and

Undoubtedly, the recovery of Hong Kong market has not been as fast as our expectation, but Hong Kong is always the leading hub in Asia. Although the number of visitors is lower than pre-pandemic level, in fact it is still above our regional competitors.

Where do you find most business traveller guests of Nina source their hotel info and make their bookings and how is Nina ensuring it’s at the forefront of that decision making process?

Our hotels are ideally located with easy access to all exhibitions around the city. Be it at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, AsiaWorld-Expo, or Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre, our hotels are in the key neighbourhood areas of these prime exhibition locations. We also offer the largest ballroom at Nina Hotel Tsuen Wan West in the New Territories, where giving another option to the corporates for their exhibitions.

With our great values, new products and experiences, and locations, as well as our great connection with the corporates’ local representatives and major distribution channels, we are at the forefront of business travellers’ decision-making process.

Simon Manning, managing director of Nina Hospitality, discusses Hong Kong's hospitality scene, changing business travel expectations, and

How does the Lodgewood brand fit into the greater scheme of things and are we likely to see expansion there in the coming years?

Lodgewood by Nina Hospitality is a mid-scale hotel brand in our portfolio. The boutique hotel in Mong Kok (above) offers 87 guestrooms, four of which are spacious suites in size from 47sqm to 54 sqm; the residence in Wan Chai provides 91 serviced apartments ranged from 40 sqm to 90sqm, both properties cater a different segment of travellers who seeking a unique, convenience, smart and energetic lifestyle.

We are constantly evaluating opportunities for expansion and growth for the whole Group and we aim to have more Lodgewood hotels in different neighbourhood areas in Hong Kong in the future.

Nina has also expanded its restaurant portfolio, including venues outside of its hotels. Is this something that you plan to focus on and how different is the restaurant game compared to running hotels?

Our restaurant portfolio is indeed a focus for us. Running restaurants presents different challenges compared to hotels, as it involves creating unique culinary experiences, managing diverse menus, and catering to the preferences of local and international diners.

Nina Patisserie

In addition to expanding our restaurant portfolio, Nina has also experienced significant growth in the retail landscape. We have introduced Nina Patisserie, a specialty pastry brand, and Nina Boutique, an e-shop offering a curated selection of products. Running these retail ventures require a deep understanding of the market, staying on top of the latest trends, and continuously innovating to meet the evolving needs and desires of our customers.

While there are differences between running hotels, restaurants and retail, our commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and passion for creating unforgettable experiences remain consistent across all aspects of Nina Hospitality.

What are your predictions for business travel, in Hong Kong and across the region, for the year ahead?

As nothing beats being face-to-face time with customers, we foresee the business travel will reach pre-pandemics level by 2025. Hong Kong has always been a reputable international business hub where perfectly accommodates the meetings and exhibitions market with its advanced transportation network, state-of-the-art venues and extensive hotel choices. As the flights come back, we will see more long haul visitors coming to the city that is recovered back to pre-pandemic level. We also believe that the short term trading activities will be enhanced.

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About the Author

Simon Manning

Simon Manning is managing director of Hong Kong-based hotel and restaurant group Nina Hospitality.