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HOSPITALITY A true icon


Owned by Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hotel ICON employs hospitality students alongside professionals, who test cutting-edge concepts in prototype rooms designed by Terence Conran. General manager and adjunct associate professor Richard Hatter tells Jen Harbottle how the hotel is setting trends


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ither Richard Hatter is a good storyteller or he has one of the best jobs in the hotel industry. Imagine James Bond visiting Q


at gadget central as he prepares to take on the world: This is the picture Hatter conjures up as he describes the cutting edge technology and futuristic nature of operations at Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON, of which he is the general manager. Granted, Hatter doesn’t pretend to be invincible, nor do his hotel’s beds fly up against the wall at the flick of his gold watch, but he still makes the property sound like the prototype for the world’s most forward-thinking hotel. And in some ways, it is. The hotel contains three ‘prototype’ rooms, where advanced design, technology and lifestyle concepts are tested, to determine what guests do and don’t want from their hotel experience. Currently, one of the rooms is set up with a Zeppelin Air iPod dock, Brinno digital peephole, Biozone airpurifier and a Cybertecture mirror – an interactive, intelligent mirror connected to the internet, which displays news and weather. On the drawing board for future testing are hypoallergenic furnishings,


164 LEISURE HANDBOOK 2014


which means the hotel’s carpet and curtains will clean themselves. So far, so good. Despite only opening in April 2011, Hotel ICON has already received accolades for its design, service and facilities, including the Condé Nast UK ‘Hot List 2012’. It’s made it onto the 2011 DestinAsian Luxe List for Asia-Pacific Top Hotels, its Above & Beyond Chinese Restaurant has been granted three ‘fork- and-spoons’ from the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012, and it’s one of Hong Kong’s top five best ranked hotels on Trip Advisor. So, what makes it so good? “Our guests just love our service,” Hatter explains. “Our staff manage to get the right balance between being helpful and not overdoing it.”


But what makes Hotel ICON even more inspiring is the fact this cutting edge hotel is not bank-rolled by a large hotel chain – Hotel ICON is owned by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and has been set up primarily as a teaching and research hotel for the university’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM). In keeping with its James Bond-esque mystique, the hotel is housed in the same building as the laboratories and


classrooms of SHTM and its primary function is to act as a test bed for its hospitality management students. The hotel is run by 362 full time staff, 60 of whom are students from the university’s undergraduate programme, and all profits made by the hotel are ploughed back into the school to fund further education. For Hatter, who works 80 per cent of his time as the hotel’s general manager and 20 per cent as an adjunct professor teaching at the university, he sees the hotel and course as a way of shaping a new breed of future hotel luminaries, saying“We teach the latest trends, we


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