• Swire shows boutique desire

Swire Hotels has this week announced more details for its 99-room The Opposite House, opening in Beijing this summer.

This is notable because it marks a commitment by a massive trading conglomerate to establish a global boutique hotel chain.

Swire Hotels was formally launched in February but it has been quietly growing its presence over the past few years since hiring Brian Williams as managing director and buying three small hotels in the UK in 2006.

Williams was the former head of boutique group Scotsman, now owned by JJW Hotels, and previously with Mandarin Oriental. He was hired by Swire to develop its hotels operation and made his first move by buying the three Alias Hotels nearly two years ago.

Since then, Swire has busied itself creating a brand in the true sense of the word, spending time, effort and money on extensive research.

The fruits of this work will first be seen in Asia but the three Alias Hotels and a property in Bristol will be formally relaunched next year.

In mainland China and Hong Kong, Swire's boutique properties will be part of Swire's office and retail developments. As well as the Beijing hotel, properties are planned for Pacific Place in Hong Kong and one in Guangzhou.

A taste of the branding was given in this week's press release about The Opposite House which opened with: "Celebrated avant-garde architect Kengo Kuma from Japan and edgy Shanghai-based designers Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu challenge the norm in Beijing's new luxury hotel."

Kuma, who has a background in retail and other commercial design outside of hotels, said he wanted to create a hideaway with the comfort of home. Neri and Hu, who previously worked on the China House in Bangkok's Oriental, also have experience in retail.

As well as the more recent hotel projects, Swire owns 75% of the Mandarin Oriental in Miami and a 20% interest in each of the JW Marriott, Conrad and Shangri-La hotels in Pacific Place, Hong Kong.

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