As I pulled up to the soon-to-be-open Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong hotel this morning, I captured what I can only assume is one of the first of many iconic moments that will take place over the next nine days: painters sitting on platforms suspended from the side of the International Commerce Centre painting the words "The Ritz-Carlton" on the front of the building.
Just three months ago, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong was still a construction site. Wires hung from ceilings, sawdust settled in the air, the pool was an empty hole, the bar was bare, placeholders designated the areas that would be the spa and fitness center, and hammers and table saws provided the background noise to engineers and construction workers. Today, there's an entirely different scene. Stone-carved ceilings and leather walls are in place, bars are stocked with cordials and spirits, wine cellars are set to the perfect temperature, the pool has water in it and the noise in the background is the chattering of eager employees excited for what lies ahead.
Effective today, the biggest hotel event of 2011 is officially underway. Just nine days before the opening, employees are buzzing around floors 102-118 of the ICC, prepping guest rooms, preparing food trials and setting up spa treatment rooms. The Hospitality Suite - a meeting place for the 520-plus employees and over 80 trainers - is filled with food and drink, friendly banter and catch-up conversations.
Over the next nine days, the employees who will open the doors of this historic hotel on March 29 will spend time with President and COO Herve Humler, food and beverage executives, human resource representatives, reservation agents, and sales and marketing teams. And for the first time in its hotel opening history, the Ritz-Carlton has let a member of the media inside the hotel to report live on how the luxury hotel group opens one of their grand dames.
I walked into the hotel - this time without a hardhat - and marveled at the gleaming chandeliers, gold-threaded furniture, plush carpets and of course, mesmerizing views. I made my way into my room on the 112 floor, sat on the bedside sofa and gazed out onto unprecedented views of Hong Kong Harbour. Gone are my fear of heights, worry of vertigo or anxiety attacks of being too high off the ground. The world was, quite literally, in plain view.
At the top on floor 118, the infamous infinity pool is flanked by lounge chairs and tables and the soon-to-be-open bar, Ozone, is being stocked with booze. I walked out into the roof-deck area and looked up: blue sky, white clouds and the warm sun provided the backdrop as if on cue from a director in the background. From the corner of my eye I could see hotel employees gathered around in a circle, laughing and pointing out their favorite details, each one with the same expression on their face: pure pride as they are part of the team that is about to open the highest hotel in the world.