The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH) historic 150th anniversary gala has seen over 2,000 guests attend an epic party at The Peninsula Hong Kong in true, signature style, with giant helium balloons in the shape of the company’s most recognisable icons inflated from the hotel’s Grade I-listed facade, in a “jubilant celebration of the timeless glamour of travel.”
Originally incorporated on 2 March 1866 as The Hongkong Hotel Company, Limited, HSH was one of the first companies to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and is currently the oldest registered company on the Hong Kong Companies Registry. For a century and a half, the compelling story of HSH has been closely tied to its city of origin, Hong Kong.
Standing indomitably, both as Hong Kong’s oldest hotel and as the flagship of The Peninsula Hotels, The Peninsula Hong Kong proved the perfect backdrop for HSH to celebrate its storied heritage, “while looking to the future.”
“Anniversaries are a time to pause and reflect, to recall the events that have shaped us, and the individuals whose legacies have played a beneficial role in Hong Kong’s success story,” The Honourable Sir Michael Kadoorie, Chairman of HSH, said in his opening address. “The future is built on the past, and the events that shaped our history also govern our current operations. Behind our international reputation lies our ethos of community responsibility and a belief in the importance of integrity and sustainability. In this anniversary year, our team reminds Hong Kong of its rich history, thereby hoping to enable the whole community to share in our heritage.”
The HSH legacy encompasse a diverse portfolio of assets worth HK$45.3 billion including 10 Peninsula Hotels around the world, The Peak Tram, The Peak Tower and The Repulse Bay Complex in Hong Kong.
The gala’s star attraction proved to be a series of seven giant helium balloons anchored onto the hotel’s legendary façade. Marking the first time in Hong Kong history that helium balloons of such a scale have been publicly displayed on a Grade I-listed heritage landmark, HSH originally commissioned eight giant balloons in the form of the company’s most iconic and recognisable assets.
With each balloon created in the US and taking a record 30-days to be designed, sewn, assembled, and hand-finished, before being shipped to Hong Kong, this is the first time that seven of HSH’s curated collection of giant helium balloons – including inflated renditions of The Peak Tram; The Peak Tower; The Repulse Bay Complex; The Peninsula’s Phantom II vintage Rolls-Royce; The Peninsula’s MD902 Helicopter; the HSH-themed Montgolfière-style balloon – named after the inventors of the world’s first passenger-carrying hot air balloon, and even a giant Peninsula Pageboy – has been showcased together, in what will become a travelling exhibition to HSH properties around the world in 2017.
Only The Peninsula Hong Kong-shaped balloon was not displayed during the gala, so as not to duplicate The Peninsula’s already iconic façade.
“We are the oldest registered company in Hong Kong – and we believe we are one of the oldest hotel groups in the world in continuous operation,” said Clement Kwok, HSH CEO. “HSH has always been an adventurous and pioneering company. The company took risks to build The Peninsula Hong Kong in Kowloon, The Repulse Bay and The Peak Tram in the early days of Hong Kong , and these investments proved to be immensely successful. It is due to that pioneering spirit that we now have these amazing assets in both Hong Kong and overseas. We are 150 years old, but we are a company that is still at a youthful stage in our development and growth strategy. We are building for the future and to celebrate our anniversary, we would like to say thank you to the people of Hong Kong.”
The eagerly-anticipated gala celebrations had, in fact, unofficially begun earlier in the day, with 150 youth volunteers from Hong Kong educational institutions including the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU); Vocational Training Council (VTC); Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), dressed in the crisp white uniforms of The Peninsula’s Pageboys and Pagegirls, and congregating on the hotel’s Helipad for a dramatic commemorative aerial photo opportunity that spelt the words ‘HSH 150’ in human formation.
Later, the 2,000 invited guests began to arrive at the gala. Greeted in the Forecourt by a giant helium balloon adorned with the HSH 150th anniversary logo, and flanked by two vintage Rolls-Royces, including a 1936 Phantom III from Sir Michael’s private collection, in a nod to The Peninsula’s famed fleet of Rolls-Royces, guests entered The Peninsula’s iconic Lobby, festooned with balloons. Here, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, actress Sarah Song, welcomed guests and introduced the gala’s guest of honour: Chief Executive of the Government of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, The Honourable C Y Leung, GBM, GBS, JP. Chief Secretary for Administration of the Government of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, The Honourable Mrs Carrie Lam, GBM, JP also in attendance at the VIP reception earlier in the evening.
Following the symbolic unveiling of a commemorative plaque, a live choral rendition of the Louis Armstrong jazz classic, What a Wonderful World marked the official start of the HSH 150th anniversary gala, as the night’s “ebullient festivities began apace.”
For an historic occasion that called for “nothing but the best,” guest enjoyed 153 different varieties of handmade canapés and “deluxe food items”:
➢ 2000 bottles of Champagne and wine
➢ 50 bottles of premium spirits for mixing craft cocktails
➢ 43.2 kg of Beluga caviar from farmed Amur River sturgeon
➢ 2450 pieces of sushi
➢ 4850 pieces of sashimi
➢ 2700 kg solid blocks of ice, carved into 5 ice sculptures adorning The Lobby and 1/F restaurants
➢ 100 kg of chocolate
➢ 200 kg of assorted candy
➢ Deutz – The Peninsula Hotels’ Champagne partner for over 26 years – saw to it that glasses overflowed throughout the night
➢ Highlights from the hotel’s extensive wine cellar featured The Peninsula’s celebrated house wines including The Peninsula’s signature red wine, The Peninsula Saint-Estèphe by La Chapelle de Calon from Bordeaux and signature white wine, The Peninsula Chablis 1er Cru by Olivier Leflaive from Burgundy
➢ Each giant helium balloon ranges from 60 feet (18 metres) high to 66 feet (20 metres) wide
➢ It took 9 months and over 10,000 man hours to build the balloons
➢ 5100 yards (4663 metres) of fabric was used to construct the balloons – enough fabric to wrap Hong Kong’s tallest peak, Tai Mo Shan (957m/3140ft high), almost five times
➢ 150 gallons of proprietary paint were used to achieve the rich depth of colour and unique patina of each balloon – enough paint to fill three-and-a-half bathtubs
➢ This is the largest project that Big Ideas Parade Giants Studio has ever completed
➢ An airport hangar had to be leased in Arizona in order to inflate and complete the balloons
➢ 2000 cubic metres of helium were used to inflate the giant balloons for The Peninsula gala – enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool
➢ All four giant helium balloons on The Peninsula’s 7/F Sun Terrace were tethered by a total of 64 anchor points
➢ All four giant helium balloons were balanced by 10 tonnes of counterweights on the roofs of The Peninsula’s 7/F Garden Suite and Fitness Centre
➢ Each of the three HSH giant helium balloons at street level on Salisbury Road, was tethered to three custom-built platforms, each with 10 anchor points per balloon
➢ 7,488 small helium balloons decorated the hotel’s interior public spaces
➢ 10 experienced “Balloon Captains” led by Ken Moody travelled from the US to Hong Kong to manage a crew of more than 80 workers required to help deflate and inflate the balloons