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ICON, A Hong Kong Tourism Success Story


Hotel ICON, currently ranked third among Hong Kong hotels on TripAdvisor touted as Hong Kong Tourism Success. South China Morning Post reports on ICON as a test bed for hospitality innovation, a highly respected teaching facility, and among the best places to stay in Hong Kong.

The image of Hong Kong’s tourism offering has been tarnished recently by losses at its theme parks, an idle observation wheel, and news that the reopening of the popular Avenue of Stars has been pushed back to 2019. However, there is one home-grown success story that is rarely reported.


When the foundation stone for Hotel ICON was officially unveiled some 10 years ago, many observers dismissed the concept of a smart, upmarket hotel staffed by students as a recipe for disaster.


For all the scepticism, once the 262-room hotel opened in the city’s harbourside Tsim Sha Tsui East entertainment district in September 2011, rather than being derided as a high-rise equivalent of the fictional Fawlty Towers, it earned glowing reviews. Hotel ICON has since received a series of international awards and commendations, including the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Grand Award 2017 for Education and Training. Furthermore, it has consistently been one of the highest ranked Hong Kong hotels on the TripAdvisor travel advice website.


Hotel ICON was the first hotel in the city to offer guests a free minibar as well as the first to introduce complimentary smartphones for guests, offering unlimited Wi-fi access and international calls to 27 countries. It launched a Tesla limousine hire service, and a special lounge where guests can shower and relax if they arrive before their room is available.



The potential negatives were turned into positives by using a subtle ploy. The teaching and research aspect is not emphasised in marketing materials, but revealed once guests are settled in the hotel. As Hatter points out, no one complains if the pilot of their aircraft is a training captain or if they must undergo surgery at a top teaching hospital.

The cosmopolitan guests don’t seem to realise they are staying at a teaching hotel, nor do they have qualms about paying about HK$2,500 a night per room to be guinea pigs in a hotel laboratory.


“Sure, I know some of the staff here are students at the university, but it makes them eager to learn and very enthusiastic,” says Shama Kothari, an insurance executive from Antwerp, Belgium, who is waiting in the lobby with her colleague, Holly Jiang. They both stay regularly at the hotel.


The 40 interns who work closely with the ICON’s 400 hotel professionals add a creative spark that is missing from many chain hotels.


Special thanks to Mr. Stuart Heaver, who published this article in the South China Morning Post online edition as well as print edition 15th March, 2018: "What guests really want".