Imagine Donatella Versace standing right in the middle of Hong Kong island and looking up. For most of us, we may see only skyscrapers but, for her, she saw them as the vantage point for her next event. For those familiar with Hong Kong, it may seem that ideas for venues have been exhausted, but there are also many new and unexpected locations in the city that have yet to be explored.
Hong Kong is iconic for its spectacular city skyline and harbour view, so events featuring these advantages are sure to be a big hit with groups. To find the unexpected and trendiest places for your events, you can take a cue from the international fashion brands, which tend to avoid boring venues.
In the case of Versace, she chose to hold a private dinner party at The Box – a restaurant and bar opened in March by the Harlan G Concepts Group, which simultaneously opened G bar next to it. Both outlets are located at the fourth level of the IFC mall which features a roof terrace with fountains. The Box and G Bar is outfitted with floor-to-ceiling glass walls offering dazzling views of Victoria Harbour. They can be combined to accommodate 300 guests with access to part of the roof terrace and fountains, surrounded by the towering skyscrapers.
Eric Wu, assistant manager of Harlan G Concepts Group, describes The Box as a trendy and high-end café with a 24/7 happy hours. Hence, it makes an ideal location for events ranging from fashion shows and product launches to private parties, corporate gatherings and press conferences. Besides the Versace party, they recently held events for companies such as Tiffany & Co. and HBO. The flexibility of the space means it can also accommodate private seated dinners for 25 people, with food created by the famous Harlan restaurant.
Top of the World
The Peak Tower is truly one of the few places that offer unrivalled scenery of Hong Kong. It may be an obvious choice, but it is one venue to treat your guests to the stunning 360-degree panoramic view Hong Kong. A white canopy can be erected on the viewing terrace for an even more magical experience under the stars.
Some of the recent events held at the Viewing Terrace of the Peak Tower included an event for Electronic Arts, an interactive entertainment software company and video game developer.
Café Deco is also another popular venue for events and meetings since it iis also sittuated at the peak. Catherine Yuen, the public relations and marketing executive of Café Deco Group, raves about the modular space of this two-storey outlet. They can transform the venue depending on the client’s budget.
One such example was the opening party for Luc Besson’s movie Arthur and the Minimoys. The 1930s-themed decoration of the restaurant was replaced with tall live plants which evoked the garden setting of the movie. A novel idea to transform an existing place to suit your event.
Event with a view
To feel the imposing scale of the Hong Kong island’s skyline, especially during the night, cross the harbour to Kowloon. Here, two of the popular venues that feature the iconic view of the city are Aqua Roma and Aqua Tokyo– adjoining dining spaces that serve Italian and Japanese cuisines respectively. Above them, Aqua Spirit, self-described as an “über glam bar”, overlooks the restaurants inside and the view outside. The restaurants’ seating capacity is for 160 people, including five private dining rooms suitable for eight diners or a standing party for 40. The venue is popular for cocktail parties and fashion events because of its contemporary décor and sultry mirrored walls. Fashion labels hold catwalks here, where models parade the latest styles along the aisle of the restaurants with stunning view of Hong Kong’s skyline as a backdrop.
One can never have too much of a good thing. In this case, two iconic symbols of Hong Kong – the city’s skyline and the red-sailed junk in the harbour. The latter has become a rare sight in recent times, that is until the Aqua Restaurant Group decided to build one exclusively for themselves.
The Aqua Luna, a 28m replica of a Chinese junk, was hand-built over a period of 18 months. The lower deck holds about 42 people, while the upper deck holds about 30. Menus can be tailor-made for private charters and corporate functions through any of the group’s six restaurants. The junk has a selection of light snacks, but what is most impressive is the full bar.
Ada Yu, public relations and marketing manager of Aqua Restaurant Group, reveals that a telecommunication company rented the Aqua Luna for a trip to Lantau island where the ship sailed guests to watch Disneyland’s evening display of fireworks from its alfresco decks. One concern, according to Yue, is guests falling off the decks if they have too much to drink.
However, this was not the case for another boat party – an oil tanker filled with free booze sponsored by Heineken.
Hong Kong event organiser, Jimmy Au, creative director of Red agency, which specialises in organising events for fashion labels, organised an event for sneaker company Royal Elastic in 2003.
Guests were entertained with live graffiti painting by two international artists situated at each end of the tanker, a DJ spinning records while the crowd partied away or watched the live break-dancing beside the DJ console. While that particular boat is no longer for rent, it does show that with a bit of imagination solutions can always be found.
After an event, guests looking for further entertainment tend to visit Lan Kwai Fong (LKF)- the concentrated party zone in Hong Kong’s Central district- so it may be a good idea to throw an event in the heart of LKF.
Terence Loo, head of marketing and communications of Lan Kwai Fong Group, says: “In Lan Kwai Fong, there is always a party, so it is very effective to throw a special party-within-a-party.”
The Lan Kwai Fong Association, which comprises the majority of adjoining outlets in the area, is known for throwing the annual LKF Street Carnival. If your group don’t wish to be confined to a restaurant or bar, they can approach the association and have part of the street in LKF sectioned off for an exclusive private carnival. This can make an unsual venue and theme for the event. What is more, decorations such as a red carpet, banners, flags or streamers bearing your company’s logo can be arranged.
As the LKF is a public area, this calls for application of licenses from government departments. Loo lists 13 types of licenses, insurances and permits and although the list may seems daunting, but Loo adds that LKFA’s established relations with the relevant departments speeds up the process. Thus, the party will usually take only two months to organise and subject matters dealing with music, fashion and arts that promote Hong Kong’s tourism gets top priority.
Creating a legendary meeting and event in Hong Kong needn’t be all that hard, it just involves a bit of risk-taking. Unusual venues are often in locations that are not tried and tested, yet they may be in places we pass by everyday. So look around, sometimes familiarity breeds new ideas.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), one of the world’s busiest air hubs, is home to over 85 airlines, linking Hong Kong with more than 150 destinations worldwide. With its extensive yet expedient train (MTR) and bus services, getting around from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon is a breeze.
Different foreign nationals are granted varying number of days per entry to Hong Kong without a visa. Visit www.immd.gov.hk for more specific advice.
Spring and autumn are the best months to hold events when the temperature is cool. Avoid the typhoon season in September.
For more comprehensive information on Hong Kong, go to Hong Kong Tourism Board at www.discoverhongkong.com
According to Jimmy Au, creative director of Red agency, venues in Hong Kong aren’t hard to find. “It is the budget that limits the choice of venues. Many interesting locations are private property and you can always get them if the price is right.
“People are spoilt for choice. Organising an event with free drinks doesn’t work anymore, the party has got to be gimmicky,” Au says.
Terence Loo, head of marketing and communications of Lan Kwai Fong Group, says that new venues are always popping?up. Size is usually the main concern for events, so disused land?before a construction starts is usually popular and he cites Tamar site film studios and West Kowloon as examples.
Some groups may prefer not to hold their meetings and events in a hotel and Eric Wu, assistant manager of Harlan G Concepts Group offers one reason why groups choose a location away from their hotel: “Not holding an event in the hotel ballrooms is good since the groups are already staying in the hotel and they may not wish to be confined to the hotel again. Hence, they don’t feel like a prisoner in it.”
DMC Destination Asia
Contact: Jenny May, managing director
Travel Asia Hong Kong
Contact: Owen Yau, president
Swire Travel Hong Kong
Contact: Edmund Tsang, general manager
Pacific World Hong Kong
Contact: Peggy Lau, managing director
Hong Kong’s Hotel Highlights
Hotels have plenty to offer in terms of service and venues if you know just where to look. The following listing showcases six hotels, each with its individual charm and superb service, all for you to hold a successful event or occasion.
Grand Ballroom, Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong
Step into Regal Airport hotel’s grand ballroom and you can see how the description is duly earned, the ballroom is the largest among Hong Kong’s hotels. Strategically located near the Hong Kong International Airport, the hotel is particularly attractive for guests flying in from different parts of the world and allow quick access to the meeting venue and luxurious service.
At 1,020sq m, the pillar-less ballroom can host up to 1,500 people and is equipped with a built-in stage, the latest audio, visual and lighting facilities, simultaneous translation room and a remote-controlled projection screen. The ballroom can also be divided into three banquet rooms, so this flexible space is perfect for large-scale conferences, exhibitions, banquets and cocktail receptions. Get ready to have a ball of a time here.
The Residence, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
Self-described as an “exclusive residential-styled event venue”, The Residence is an extension of Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s renowned lobby which serves as furnished home in 1930s French art deco style. A grand piano and open fireplace welcome the guests in its Drawing Room, which can hold 30 people for a boardroom meeting or 72 people for a banquet.
To experience The Residence’s sophisticated and exclusive personal residence environment, head for its Poggenpohl-designed pantry. Here, food and beverages are freshly prepared and guest can adjourn to a larger room called The Lounge that is ideal for theatre-style meetings for up to 152 people or 96 people for banquets. For a more intimate venue, its Library, with comfortable armchairs and sofas, is conducive for networking. All rooms are supported with advanced technical components. Guests may leave not only inspired by the event, but also to have a home like The Residence.
China Clipper Lounge, The Peninsula Hong Kong
As a departure and arrival?lounge for passengers using the helicopter services in Peninsula Hotel, The China Clipper lounge can also be booked for private events. Named after seaplanes of the Pan Am-era, which plied the Pacific Route from San Francisco to Hong Kong from 1935 to 1945, the lounge features aircraft memorabilia and images of aviation heroes. With the helipad just a flight of stairs away means the room is located on the top of the tower (30th floor) and looks out to the harbour. The lounge hold 16 to 40 people depending on the seating arrangements of the events. Note that there is a minimum food and beverage charge of US$2,000 and the rate doubles for evening events from 7pm to midnight. An irresistible price to pay for the exclusive use of such an unusual venue.
Murano Room, Lanson Place
This design-oriented boutique hotel is known to many for its understated and chic environment. Its boardroom, the Murano Room, is elegantly designed with classic contemporary furniture and decorated with handpicked artworks, creating a home of peaceful tranquillity for 20 people in a seated arrangement.
This 800sq m space serves also as a formal dining room for private parties, where you can hire the hotel’s chef or bring your own chef . Other added-on services include tailor-made city tours by the hotel’s staff.
By mid-June, the hotel will launch a second boardroom of 1,200sq m. It’ll feature the hotel’s well-known chic interior design by Joseph Fung of SP2. Hotel guests received priority booking of the boardrooms, where style meets state-of-the-art facilities.
Mandarin Spa, Mandarin Oriental Hotel
The Mandarin Spa is an urban oasis fit for any group and event organisers to incorporate cultural and well-being activities into their itineraries. Shevaun Porter, the hotel’s director of communications, observes this growing trend. Porter says: “As part of our recent multi-million- dollar renovation, we created a 1930s Shanghai-inspired holistic spa, traditional barber (also in 1930s Shanghai style) and a contemporary hair and beauty salon, so every well-being need is catered for.
“Group itineraries can include an afternoon of individual holistic Spa treatments following a morning of meetings, or pre-event pampering in The Mandarin Barber and Mandarin Salon before their gala event.”
Restaurants, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
Food often becomes the focal point of a conversation and is also a great way to break the ice. JW Marriott Hotel tailor-makes menus for group organisers. “Many a time, we’ve been requested to arrange a western set-up in the private room of Man Ho Chinese Restaurant as some of the clients prefer a touch of Asia amid the Chinese setting with western menus,” says Fiona Szeto, the hotel’s director of communications. The restaurants in the hotel will often work together. For instance, bar stools in the hotel’s lounge were transported to JW’s California to meet the guest’s special need of the event. For a less formal event, Szeto recommends the Fish Bar, located next to the pool to experience the only alfresco dining of its type in the Central district. n