by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | October 25, 2018

Cheryl-Anne Sturken, senior consulting editor for Meetings & Conventions magazineRendering of the Regent hotel to open in 2019 in Jakarta, IndonesiaThere is never a dull moment in the global luxury hotel market, which is estimated to be worth some $60 billion and counting, and this week has proved no different. London-based InterContinental Hotels Group, parent company of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, said it is relaunching its ultra-luxury brand, Regent Hotels & Resorts, and has inked a deal for a Regent property in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the brand's first new signing since IHG acquired a majority stake in it earlier this year.

Considering that the Regent brand has only six hotels in its portfolio, with another two in the pipeline (in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Phu Qoc, Vietnam), the news might seem nothing more than a pebble lobbed into the very deep waters of the burgeoning luxury segment. Yet, back in March of this year, when IHG announced it had acquired a 51 percent controlling stake in Regent Hotels & Resorts for $39 million in cash (and the right to acquire the remaining 49 percent interest in a phased manner beginning in 2026), the chain also threw down the luxury gauntlet by saying it intended to grow the Regent portfolio to more than 40 hotels in global gateway cities and resort locations.

It seems IHG is about to make good on that promise with the Regent Kuala Lumpur signing. The new hotel, of which IHG offered scant details, will be part of a multi-use development project situated next to the Tun Razak Exchange, a huge commercial site pegged as a new global financial district and an extension of the city's golden triangle known for its commercial, shopping and entertainment options.

"I'm delighted that we're announcing the first signing for our Regent brand today," said Keith Barr, CEO of IHG, in a statement announcing the new singing. "I'm confident that our impressive new positioning and brand identity will allow us to continue to take the brand to the world's best destinations and help position Regent as a real leader within luxury hospitality. We are already one of the world leaders in luxury with our InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand, and alongside Regent and Kimpton, we have significant potential to expand our global footprint in the fast-growing luxury segment."

Long before the doors of the Malaysian hotel swing open, however, the Regent flag will make a grand return to its original stomping ground. The 503-room InterContinental Hong Kong, which originally debuted in 1980 as the Regent Hong Kong, currently is closed for a massive multimillion-dollar renovation. Upon reopening in 2021, it will again fly the Regent flag, cementing the brand's return to an even more luxurious skyline on Kowloon's waterfront.

IHG and Taipei City-based Formosa International Hotels Corp., the minority owner of Regent Hotels & Resorts, has made it clear that the repositioning of the Regent brand, which was founded by legendary hotelier Robert H. Burns, is a deliberate and orchestrated strategy to secure a coveted spot for the brand at the pinnacle of the luxury market.

"Returning the property to its original roots as a Regent hotel is symbolic of our ambition to return the brand to its former glory and will go down in history as one of the greatest brand comebacks in the hotel industry," said Steven Pan, executive chairman of Formosa International Hotels Corp. "It's been four months since IHG acquired a majority share in Regent Hotels & Resorts, and we have already seen what can be achieved in a joint venture with one of the largest and most respected hotel companies. It's an exciting time for the brand as we propel Regent back to worldwide reach and evolve the brand to appeal to the luxury traveler of today and tomorrow."

When the Regent Hong Kong makes it grand return, it will do so to some serious new competition. The 413-room Rosewood Hong Kong, which occupies 43 floors of a multi-use tower, is scheduled to open later this year on the Victoria Harbourfront. The hotel will be the first urban setting for Asaya, Rosewood's innovative holistic wellness concept, as well as 186 residences.

In addition, early 2019 will mark the opening of the 25-story, 129-room St. Regis Hong Kong, within walking distance of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and Victoria Harbor. The property will feature luxurious St. Regis offerings such as signature Chinese and French restaurants and a St. Regis Bar that will serve the brand's signature Bloody Mary.