Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Souped-Up Gentrification of Tseung Kwan O

The glamerous foyer of the Crowne Plaza
On Friday I checked out a new hotel in Tseung Kwan O.

It's out in Kowloon East and thanks to the MTR it has become quite convenient to get there both from Kowloon and the New Territories and Hong Kong Island from North Point.

The fascinating thing about TKO -- which some people call it now -- is that the place covers four different MTR stations -- Tseung Kwan O, Po Lam, Hang Hau, Tiu King Leng. Even Central can't boast that.

Apparently some 400,000 people live in this area which is reclaimed land.

The first time I visited this area was over 15 years ago and I remember it as only being accessible by bus and it was hilly, and the only buildings were warehouses and housing estates. Now the place is completely gentrified with tall blocks of apartments crowded next to each other.

And now it has a spanking new Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East, which claims to be a five-star hotel right next to the MTR station.

But in TKO?

The hotel itself is nice enough, with lots of marble (apparently a signature of Sun Hung Kai buildings) in the foyer and elevator areas. There's a fine-dining Italian restaurant on the 47th floor that overlooks the neighbourhood, while a Chinese restaurant and buffet occupy the lower floors. Was particularly impressed with the Chinese restaurant with modern decor featuring goldfish and mountains using simple lines and different textures on the walls.

Next door is the Holiday Inn Express that's set to open in the middle of this month. The bottom half will be for hotel rooms, including restaurants that are contracted out, while the top floors will be Vega Suites offering serviced apartments.

How much are these flats?

For just under 400 square feet, it's a jaw-dropping HK$16,000 ($2,064) a month.

This is not a hip area like Central or Mid-Levels. This is Tseung Kwan O. Even a serviced apartment in Sai Ying Pun in Western is HK$14,000 for about the same size.

And you don't get much for HK$16,000 -- the kitchenette only has a hotplate and a small fridge.

Will there really be people willing to pay that much?

Apparently management things so. With so many people living in the neighbourhood, surely there will be overseas relatives who will need a place to stay, or visiting executives whose offices are in Kowloon Bay or Kwun Tong, which are only a few stops away by MTR.

There will also be MICE facilities so there will be definitely enough room for large groups to stay.

While it's intriguing to see branded hotels going further out into the boonies, can they really justifying charging that much?

We shall see as customers vote with their wallets...

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