It's difficult to get a feel for a city from the inside of a five star hotel because, generally speaking, they all look the same: impressive but sterile. When the Grand Hyatt contracted Tony Chi (季裕棠) to design the interior of its restaurants, suites and meeting rooms, it did so with the intention of "bringing a sense of the city in to the hotel," said Grand Hyatt Taipei general manager, Shaun Treacy.
"Tony is a very creative individual who always brings a new perspective to interior design, whether it is in the restaurant, meeting facilities or in the new suites. He has been incredibly instrumental in updating the hotel," he said.
Well established in the US and throughout Asia, the Taiwanese-born interior designer is responsible for a number of trendy bars and restaurants in Hong Kong in addition to all the renovations at the Grand Hyatt Taipei since 1997. Chi's latest creation is a collection of suites on the Hotel's 25th floor. His next project is "The Mansions," a large multifunction room set to open next year in the east part of the hotel lobby.
Set to challenge the concept of a conventional hotel meeting room, the space will be designed around a central open kitchen to give it a more residential feel.
"A hotel function room is very sterile, it doesn't matter where you are, they're all the same. We want to bring something that hasn't been done before into this very traditional area of the hotel business," Treacy said.
Thinking outside the box is one reason the Hyatt has managed to remain the number one business hotel in Taiwan, in terms of revenue and standards, he added. "For something to be different or successful it needs to be distinct from what is being done elsewhere."
Although the shift among global hotel companies is to use established interior design firms, according to Tracey, hiring one firm to design all of its hotels results in a cookie cutter hotel product. To avoid this trap, the Hyatt chooses local designers who incorporate aspects of the local culture into their work.
"It is important that whatever is designed integrates on an international level but also with the local culture of the country in which the hotel operates and Tony is one of those individuals.
"His designs are contemporary but they are also heavily influenced by Asian culture, which make them unique to our hotel and make them unique to Taiwan," Treacy said.
While the hotel's primary focus is on international business cliental, Treacy said the local food and beverage market is still a significant portion at 20 percent. Dining and drinking in hotels, he added is a concept unique to the Asian region.
"People don't go to the Grand Hyatt in London or Paris or the US to eat or drink, and you certainly wouldn't build a hotel with 10 restaurants, because it would be financial suicide. But in Asia it is different because when hotels like this were built that choice wasn't there. Some of the best clubs and restaurants are in hotels."
It is not the case in Taipei anymore as the number of trendy nightspots and eateries increases. The competition, however, doesn't threaten the Grand Hyatt Taipei, which puts the same emphasis on the interior design of its food and beverage sector as it does in its conference rooms and suites.
"If there are new places coming into the market and you want to retain or grow your customer base then you have to offer something that is of a higher caliber or unique, compared with what is outside," he explained. This is one reason why the Hyatt employed a local interior designer and why, in Treacy's words, "our business hasn't slowed."