In Conversation With Kristina Snaith-Lense, Hotel Manager of The Upper House

Kristina Snaith-Lense is the Hotel Manager at The Upper House, in this interview she tells us all about what it’s like to be involved in the operations of such a well-reputed brand name, top tips for visitors to Hong Kong and how positivity is an integral part of The House Collective brand ethos. Read on to find out more.

Tell us more about your role at The Upper House and what a typical day involves (if such a thing exists!)

I have the great fortune to spend my day with some really amazing people, be that my team, our guests and also our brand partners. What’s so special about hotel operations and probably what I love the most is that everyday is different and brings the unexpected. There is the adrenaline that goes with putting on a show and just a touch of drama that is associated in responding to ad hoc situations.

To me having the right start to the day is essential and we do that via our leadership morning meeting, aka morning prayers, every day at the same time. We all share a piece of “good news” to ensure it’s a positive and constructive meeting and sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Houses not hotels. Is the strap-line for the House Collective. Please tell us more about this ethos.

Identifying, appreciating and celebrating our differences, is what sets The House Collective apart. Unlike other hotel groups, where you can find a familiar format applied to different locations, every House has its own character. Each House is a sophisticated, singular piece of design, created by talented architects and designers that reflect the unique qualities of their surroundings.

What makes our House a “home” is our people, they are the heart and soul of our brand. Please elaborate on how you bring this to life in all your properties.

We encourage our team members to be themselves, be spontaneous and be creative.  Great relationships have been created with our guests because of our genuine and engaging approach. Our team has continued to cultivate friendships with our guests over the years.

The Guest Experience team enjoy sharing genuine recommendations and experiences with our guest. Combined with measured service, we deliver highly personalised experiences. Our Hong Kong Safari programme is led by our team of experts: The Food Guru, The Explorer, The Connoisseur, The Local and The Shopping Diva. They take the time to get to know the guests’ personality, interests, likes and dislikes before curating the right experience just for them.  Each excursion is different and perfect for people who want to discover Hong Kong from different points of view.

The design aesthetic at The Upper House is based around a concept of an Upward Journey, please tell us more about how this theme came about and how it translates through the house. 

Our House was created to provide a retreat removed from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Our Asian influenced and timeless design reveals an understated calmness and conjured a sense of tranquillity throughout.

The entry to our House through a Bedonia stone doorway façade by Thomas Heatherwick evokes the image of a curtain being opened to welcome guests to a private residence.

Inside the entrance, a circular bamboo enclosure, ‘the Lantern’, marks the beginning of the ‘upward journey’ along a dimly-lit escalator with walls lined with bespoke lamps leading guests into Level 6, flooded with natural daylight, and featuring ‘The Lawn’, a lush grassed area to relax under the sun and stars.

Ascending into the hotel’s 117 spacious guest rooms, each is designed to provide a sense of understated luxury.  The contemporary monochromatic design features natural timber, shoji glass, limestone and lacquered paper panels.

The highlight of the ‘journey’ is Level 49, which showcases the architecturally intriguing Sky Bridge.  Infused with a skylight above a 40 metre high atrium, the Sky Bridge leads to the Sky Lounge and our celebrated ‘grand café’  Café Gray Deluxe, which is set to close after being at the heart of the city’s dining scene for over a decade. A new and excited dining concept will be revealed in spring 2021.

What can guests expect from their stay at Upper House and what sets it apart from other luxury properties in Hong Kong?

We love pampering our guests and hope to make them feel right at home. Every person who walks through our doors is special and we cater to provide them a bespoke experience each time they visit.  When we get to know them a little, we can tailor everything from the kind of restaurants and bars we recommend, to their turndown amenities or little surprises we like to give our guests. There is no one size fits all or standardised experience.

We are a small luxury hotel with 117 rooms with the flexibility to be creative and implement new offering and experiences.  We often collaborate with interesting partners that align well with our brand and. For example, we recently worked with homegrown F&B brands, Matchali, Cookie Department and Teakha for pop-ups and afternoon teas.

Our prime location and design also make us stand out; we are close to malls, offices, leisure facilities and Admiralty MTR station which connects to three main lines. Designed by Hong Kong based architect Andre Fu, the interiors are reminiscent of an Asian private residence and conveys a sense of understated luxury. We also have amazing views with the largest entry level rooms in Hong Kong starting from 730 square feet.

Every year there are new hotel openings with newer products and different services. It’s healthy to have some competition and it encourages us to not only maintain and excel our level of service but continue to innovate and improve the hospitality experience as a whole.

We just love your Christmas Tree installation, tell us more about this partnership with the Collective.

For the past four years, The Upper House has commissioned a one-of-a-kind tree that incorporates sustainability. This year, international architecture studio, COLLECTIVE, presents a design that embraces heritage sustainability which integrates the role of culture through cultural heritage and creativity.

Inspired by Hong Kong’s iconic illuminating street signs and with the guidance of Streetsign HK, a group that advocates street signs as urban cultural heritage, COLLECTIVE reinvigorates the fading art of neon sign making with the creation of the “Doodle Tree”. Breaking with convention of 2D neon signs, the team and Mr. Wu Chi Kai, one of only three remaining local craftsmen, expertly fabricated the neon tubes into 3D form through perpetual experiments and traditional heated glass bending techniques.

In the spirit of giving, we are placing the tree up for auction with all proceeds benefiting ImpactHK, a local charity dedicated to helping the homeless in Hong Kong.

Tell us more about the area of Hong Kong in which The Upper House is located?

The Upper House is located in Pacific Place, Hong Kong’s premier lifestyle hub, a mixed-used development that continues to evolve and grow as the ultimate place to shop, dine, work, stay, live, relax and play.

Guests can enjoy shopping for luxury brands, or interesting independent brands in the nearby Star Street precinct.

We are also set against the backdrop of lush greenery, where guests can easily access Bowen Road running trail or Hong Kong Park. Other attractions are conveniently accessible by public transport.

Please share your top tips for a first-time visitor to Hong Kong.

Comfy shoes, an empty suitcase, and an appetite to eat and drink your way around the city! Hong Kong offers such diversity in relative proximity: you can be dining in a Michelin-rated Hong Kong Tea House; be 30 minutes from the most stunning hikes, waterfalls and beaches; shopping for local treasures or international brands right next to each other!

Personal top picks: Yardbird, Ho Lee Fook and Francis for eating out. Head to Gough Street and Poho for some retail therapy – my favourite destination at the moment is Callixto.   Whilst in the area, visit our recent collaborations partner Teakha by Nana Chan for the most delicious matcha delights and best milk tea. Try the Dragon’s back hike or Sunset Peak for the more adventurous spirits!

What does luxury mean to you?

Luxury for me is all about creating a highly personalised experience and how you’re left feeling after that experience. A memory which has touched the senses, defined by people who have gone the extra mile to deliver that to you.

The luxury travel sector constantly evolves to satisfy and, in many cases, exceed the expectations of global travellers, especially in the current pandemic, what are the key trends that you predict for the sector moving into 2021 and beyond?

We anticipate that when travel restrictions are lifted, people will be more reluctant to hop on planes than before, and therefore we are prioritising to domestic business stimulus. We predict that short haul travel will recover first and will see tourist from nearby Asia countries such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia returning before long haul tourists.

Finally, what is your life motto? (if you have one).

Be Invested, go the extra mile, show you care, give intentionally. Take risks, radiate warmth, love relentlessly, be the difference.

Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.

Sign up for our newsletter for inspiration, exclusive previews & luxury tips