Hong Leong chairman wins hotel industry's coveted award

Mr Kwek Leng Beng is the first Singaporean to receive the award.
Mr Kwek Leng Beng is the first Singaporean to receive the award.ST FILE PHOTO

Hong Leong Group Singapore executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng has received a coveted honour at a leading hotel investment conference in Hong Kong.

Mr Kwek, who is also chairman of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C), is the first Singaporean to clinch the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented at the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (Hicap) yesterday.

The award, which is not conferred annually, was last given out in 2011 to Ms Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the chairman of Carlson Inc, which runs the Radisson chain of hotels. It honours exceptional individuals who have distinguished themselves through their accomplishments and contributions to expand, enhance and advance the hotel industry in the Asia-Pacific and the world.

The Hicap programme planning committee puts up names of candidates for consideration every year but the prize is awarded only when a deserving individual emerges. Recipients are determined by a special committee comprising senior-level industry participants.

Mr Kwek entered the hospitality industry with a single hotel in Singapore in 1971, heeding the Government's call to diversify and grow the newly independent economy by focusing on non-traditional sectors.

VENTURING OUT

I remember how the Government galvanised us to go into manufacturing and hospitality...

I didn't know anything about hotels. We have come a long way since then.

MR KWEK LENG BENG, recalling the early days when he first heeded the Government's call to help create jobs

Since the move to build the then King's Hotel in Havelock Road, Mr Kwek has grown the business into a global hospitality player.

"I remember how the Government galvanised us to go into manufacturing and hospitality and other non-traditional activities to create jobs and grow the economy," Mr Kwek said in a statement.

"Many of us were happy to plunge into this new field, although we were newbies when it came to hotels. Being in the property business, I didn't know anything about hotels. We have come a long way since then."

Hong Leong Group owns and operates over 150 hotels across 24 countries, with outlets in cities like London, Paris and New York.

The group's main hospitality company, M&C, continues to expand and has over 8,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline.

Hong Leong Group, through its other subsidiaries, also owns prestigious hotels such as The South Beach in Singapore, Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool and The Chelsea Harbour Hotel in London.

Yasmine Yahya

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Hong Leong chairman wins hotel industry's coveted award'. Print Edition | Subscribe