Aug 23, 2021
THE FIRST PRIVATE-POOL VILLAS resort? That five-fixture bathroom we all now take for granted in five-star hotels? Those were created by Regent, which since its launch half a century ago has been a continual pioneer in luxury hospitality – perhaps little surprise from a company founded by legendary hotelier Robert Burns and also co-led for a time by Adrian Zecha, Mr. Aman himself.
By the 1980s and ’90s, Regent, which grew up in Asia and had glittery global icons in Regent Beverly Wilshire and Regent Hong Kong, had become a trusted household name. Fusing high-end hospitality with a sense of security and familiarity, the group was on every savvy traveler’s list, whether for work or pleasure.
However, as the hospitality industry continued to expand, Regent fought to maintain its top-of-mind status. Squeezed between splashier luxury brands and the boutique property boom, Regent was also faced with a new generation of travelers, whose been-there-Instagrammed-that attitudes valued fresh, innovative experiences over traditional hotel stays. This OG industry leader knew it needed a radical rebrand.
As it happened, IHG Hotels & Resorts was in the middle of a shopping spree on the Rodeo Drive of the hotel market, meaning their eyes were firmly fixed on marquee brands. Between buying Kimpton in 2015 and Six Senses in 2019, the group acquired a majority stake in Regent Hotels & Resort in 2018, confident that the 50-year-old company was a diamond in the rough. “We saw an opportunity to acquire a brand with an incredible heritage… that would appeal to new upper luxury consumers,” Tom Rowntree, the vice president of global marketing for IHG’s luxury segment, told Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia.
Regent Kyoto day and night
With a few tweaks, IHG was certain that Regent could capture the hearts of young travelers. They began with extensive consumer research and feedback from a roster of industry experts, global luxe tastemakers and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. In terms of brand identity, the aesthetic changes are impossible to ignore: Regent’s new look boasts an updated logo, a refreshed color palette — think shades of celadon, dark teal, purple, ruby and gold — as well as bespoke custom illustrations and characters, developed by leading creatives from the fashion and luxury-goods segment to tell the many stories behind Regent’s historic properties.
As Regent’s first new-build under the IHG banner, Regent Phu Quoc, which is slated to open in the last quarter of 2021, will provide an alluring first glimpse into what guests can expect from the rebranding. A lush isle off the southwest coast of Vietnam, Phu Quoc was full-steam-ahead in becoming a top-tier hospitality playground pre-Covid. Regent’s goal here is to break from tradition, eschewing tired resort stereotypes — the chaotic lobby, the identikit rooms, the bare-minimum amenities — in favor of something much more nuanced.
The all-suite-and-villa resort walks the line between sanctuary and social hub, providing peace for couples and solo travelers, while amping up the excitement and activities for families and large groups. Clint Nagata, the founder and creative partner of BLINK, the design firm behind the property, describes the property as “Aman-meets-Ritz.” Rooms start at 80 square meters and max out at an ultra-luxe, 1,410-square-meter, seven-bedroom villa; all villas feature an infinity pool and private deck.
The resort also offers six different dining and drinking experiences (highlights include a Franco-Japanese “salon de beouf” called Oku, and Bar Jade, a speakeasy that, according to Nagata, is an exciting last-minute addition because it feels more like a bar you’d find in a bustling metropolis than a beachside resort); a Mediterranean-inspired, day-to-night Ocean Club; and an outdoor infinity pool plus a covered pool for guests who don’t enjoy the sun. Oh, and have we mentioned the private luxury yacht that’s currently being built in Bordeaux, France?
“The luxury guest’s expectations and standards have never been higher,” the general manager of Regent Phu Quoc, Juan Losada, told me. “We look forward to setting new benchmarks through exceptional Vietnamese hospitality and guest experiences, which feel simultaneously luxurious and effortless.”
To create the seamless stay that Losada mentioned, the Regent is introducing Experience Agents who will be assigned to guests upon arrival to cater to every wish and whim — from curating daily itineraries to organizing a romantic sunset dinner out on the water. In a move that already has us applauding, the resort has also removed small surcharges from everyday services by including laundry, first pressing and the mini-bar as complimentary offerings.
Nagata, who started working on Regent Phu Quoc in 2016, witnessed firsthand the evolution of the brand. When IHG came on board a couple of years into the project, the Bangkok-based designer felt a shift in both design aesthetic and target audience: some of BLINK’s original plans (refined, modern Asian influences) remained, but overall, the resort was to be “turned up a couple of notches.” This translated to bolder colors and more vibrant, extravagant interior design flourishes. Nagata points to the oversized day beds as an example of the new design sensibility: “lots of cushions and colors and patterns [for] those Instagrammable moments.”
“[Regent] wanted to infuse new life, and they looked to create a brand that’s younger and fresher but still attractive to people who enjoy the luxury lifestyle,” Nagata said. “I think it should be well-received. I’ve gotten some feedback from some friends that went to look at it. While it’s different, there are some really nice wonderful public spaces that we created… You get this calmness… but then there’s this very over-the-top extravagance in certain areas that makes for a unique product.”
Safe to say, the new Regent brand is far from how your auntie remembered it from back in the day. IHG’s intention is to grow its portfolio to more than 40 hotels in key global gateway cities, including the recently announced Regent Kyoto that’s next on the docket, arriving in 2024. Luckily, the Phu Quoc property opens at the end of this year, so we don’t have long to wait.