Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Sha Tin is the ultimate spot for a resort-style and green staycation.
If you once considered staycationing in Hong Kong but decided against it because you figured it was nearly impossible to trade in for a relaxing weekend without having to deal with the push and the shove that the city is notorious for, you thought wrong. Look beyond the sky-high buildings and flashy shopping malls. You’ll see Sha Tin nestled in the New Territories, a retreat that many have underestimated. That is why we personally took to the countryside of Sha Tin and discovered our ideal staycation, the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin. As we sat in the hotel’s cafe looking out into the lush, green foliage, General Manager Wilson Lee lured us in with the hotel’s resort-oriented approach, community initiatives, and conscious mindset. Read on to find out more.
How did you get involved with the hospitality industry?
I started studying at Polytechnic University of Hong Kong in 1988. I joined Grand Hyatt Hong Kong in 2002, and my time with Hyatt has been 14 years. I’ve always been in sales and marketing so when I joined Grand Hyatt I was the Director of Marketing there, then I joined Hyatt’s corporate office for Asia-Pacific. Then I went to Shanghai to open the Andaz, a Hyatt brand hotel focused on an unconventional, friendly and relaxed lifestyle. When I finished opening Andaz Shanghai, I joined [Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin]. The environment here is great. I’ve been here for three years now.
Why are your guests encouraged to stay in Sha Tin, quite a distance away from the city?
A lot of the things that we do here are pretty much in a resort-oriented approach. Of course, we have a lot of business people stay here with us because of our proximity to the Science Park, the Chinese University, and all other businesses. People do come out to stay with us even though their offices are in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. To them as a first-timer it might be a little bit difficult to figure out the transportation system, but once they’ve tried it they realise it’s very close.
A lot of people choose to come here because of the green environment we have, with the mountains behind us and the Tolo Harbour infront of us. The team and I created an environment where people can enjoy the nature. We tell them to enjoy all the country parks surrounding the hotel, like Pat Sin Leng, Ma On Shan, or Sai Sha. They’re not choosing a hotel to stay in Admiralty, Central or West Kowloon. They’re coming out to the countryside where transportation is extremely convenient. Of all the things that we promote, we want people to know that there are good things they can enjoy. If they don’t want to go out of town, they can do a staycation here. Our guests love it.
How do you encourage guests to be less wasteful of amenities in their rooms?
We have notes in the room. Honestly this is nothing new, many hotels do this. But what we’ve done is place a note by the bedside table saying we won’t change your sheets if you’re staying for less than 3 days. Most guests are actually okay with it, for protecting the environment. Less water is used, less detergent and chemicals down the drain.
Electricity bills in Hong Kong are very high, especially during the summer. How do you conserve energy at the hotel?
We always monitor the electricity usage, not because we want to control the cost of electricity, water, or gas, but it focuses on how efficient we are in terms of using all of these resources. We constantly monitor the humidity and temperature in different areas of the hotel to make sure that everywhere is balanced to ensure it is comfortable for our guests.
We have a revolving glass door that was installed before I came as a GM. It was purely on conserving energy. With the glass doors the cold air escapes when people come in with the hot air. The whole equilibrium is then upset in the lobby. We still have glass doors, but on windy days we’ll close it and direct everyone to move through the revolving doors, to make sure we don’t waste energy whilst maintain a comfortable environment.
Are there any sustainable measures incorporated into the designs or architectures that are not visible to the guests?
The architect has built in a lot of natural daylight and outdoor areas for people to enjoy. The café, Chinese restaurant, executive room, function and event rooms all have outdoor spaces. 9 or 10 of our guestrooms have balconies. There’s a pool deck where people can drink by the bar. They’ve really built the outdoor elements into the hardware of the hotel. When the hotel was built 8 years ago, the environmental consideration was not that strong as it is now. In terms of room design, it’s pretty simple without a lot of decoration so as to not create waste for the future. One thing a lot of people talk about in hotels is ambience control in hotel rooms. Our light switches are simple – on or off. We have key cards for the rooms so when they take it out it turns off the air conditioning and non-essential lights.
We don’t have features like rainwater collection. I don’t think it was in anyone’s mind 10 years ago. So it comes afterwards, in terms of the building management systems by controlling the temperature, cooling water and hot water.
Does the Hyatt Group have some sort of CSR angle or a rewards platform for its hotels?
Last year, Hyatt gave us an award called the Hyatt Thrive. Hyatt Thrive has many pillars, and we received an award for environmental sustainability. Through the ethics of the green team, we’ve done building management systems, managing and monitoring, controlling, and all resource efficiency. We have data to show our improvements including the efforts we’ve done within the guestrooms and internally educating our employees. It’s not just about switching off the lights and the air-con.
What are some ways Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin has given back to the community?
This being the teaching hotel for the Chinese University of Hong Kong, gives us a lot of opportunities to work with students and also provide training and learning experiences for them. For those who choose to come over for their internship in a real business environment, protecting the environment is something they would see in the way we work here. Our relationship is ongoing.
For kids, we have an activity called “Eco-Gardener” so kids can take away little plants that tell them how to make a sustainable flowerpot or seedling pot out of water bottles.
Another big thing that we do here in Sha Tin is not to create food waste. We go to Food Angel every month to do volunteering work. We donate some of our food trimmings that we don’t use so that they can cook and package them into lunchboxes. We are 110% supportive of Food Angel. We’re also donating to Ronald McDonald House where we donate our pastries. And we work with FoodWise. All the service staff members here are trained to cooperate with guests on reducing food waste or ordering moderately.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the social enterprise iBakery?
It’s really about supporting social enterprises and community involvement. We like the idea of them running their own bakery, baking beautiful bread, cookies and cakes, competing with other bakeries, and providing employment opportunities to those that need it. It all started with Hyatt Regency Kyoto who donated their green tea cookie recipe to iBakery. One day we were hosting a charity lunch for the elderly supported by Tung Wah Hospital and HSBC. We found out iBakery were opening up a kitchen in Tai Wai, very close to us. So we donated a recipe from us, yuzu madeleine cakes. That one product has evolved into a few more flavours, matcha and hojicha which came from Kyoto. It was a Hyatt Regency sister hotel initiative. It wasn’t just about donating our recipe. We really got ourselves involved with helping and training them –our pastry chef went over there to work with their team.
Have you thought about growing your own produce and herbs for your restaurants?
We thought about this. It’s something we’ll continue to explore. The reason why we cannot just do it is because we have to consider a suitable environment and piece of land, making it sustainable and useable for growing herbs. But then because we don’t have a lot of restaurants, the usage of herbs is not huge. We’re mindful of the location and growing something good, healthly and able. Some vendors have boxes that you can install on the rooftop and in the garden, but we want something to come up from the ground.
How do you think Hong Kong is doing now in terms of sustainability? Where do you see it down the road?
I think Hong Kong has the right ingredients to do it but it needs the government to really promote this more. When we go perhaps towards the spectrum of a completely green life similarly to Scandinavian countries, versus completely not giving a damn to what’s happening, I think Hong Kong is in the middle. Generally the public has that sense of protecting the environment and conserving resources, but the generation that we’re living with right now are not the kind that would say, oh I’ll go all out – let’s change my life and be green.
Hong Kong has the right ingredients to go in that direction but it will take a while.