In the middle of the 19th century, in Thailand (then known as Siam) a rest house for foreign seafarers was established on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It was to become one of the world’s greatest hotels: The Oriental | Source: Supplied

The Story Behind the Leading Luxury Hotel Group, Mandarin Oriental

For almost 60 years, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has been leading the way in luxury hospitality, gaining accolades from its highly-rated service and hospitality offerings.

Since the Group opened the iconic Mandarin hotel in Hong Kong in 1963, the Mandarin Oriental has solidified its commitment to quality over quantity and its reputation as a leading luxury accommodation provider living up to the expectations around Asian hospitality.

Delivering personal service, luxurious rooms and suites and award-winning spas and hospitality venues, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has long been synonymous with luxury accommodation and oriental charm.

Today, the Group operates 35 hotels and seven residences in 24 countries and territories and continues to attract A-list celebrities and locals alike.

Two Flagship Hotels

While the flagship hotel is now known as Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, when it first opened back in 1963 it was simply, The Mandarin. With 650 rooms spread across 27 storeys, The Mandarin was the tallest building on Hong Kong island for three years following its construction. Quickly earning a reputation for service excellence, The Mandarin went on to become the historic landmark and top-rated hotel that its recognised as today.

Leading the way in luxury accommodation, The Mandarin was the first hotel to have direct-dial phones and the first in Asia to have a bathtub in every room. As for its renowned service, many of its staff members have been with the hotel for years, some even reaching past the 50-year milestone with Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

Of course, The Mandarin’s reputation as a top hotel in Hong Kong was also boosted by the many celebrities who checked into The Mandarin’s suites as well as the high-profile businessmen that would frequent the hotel’s iconic Captain’s Bar, which can be considered as much of an institution as the hotel itself.

In 2005, the hotel underwent a multi-million dollar comprehensive renovation, emerging with updated rooms and suites. In 2018, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong was awarded more than 30 Forbes Travel Guide stars; the most any city hotel has ever earned in the world. In February 2021, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong re-emerged from refurbishment once again, this time with a new club lounge called The Mandarin Club which serves as an exclusive all-day retreat.

The other half of The Group’s brand name pays tribute to Mandarin Oriental’s second flagship hotel, The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Before partially acquiring and branding the hotel under the Group umbrella, the famed Bangkok hotel was known as The Oriental. Boasting a 145-year history, The Oriental was Thailand’s first hotel, back when the country was Siam.

Perched along the Chao Phraya River, The Oriental was originally a rest house for foreign seafarers established by two American sailors before being burnt down in 1865. The hotel was then purchased by Hans Niels Andersen and Siam’s Prince Prisdang to be rebuilt into a grand hotel worthy of accomodating royalty.

In 1891 The Oriental was deemed luxurious enough to host Crown Prince Nicholas Alexandrovich, who would go on to be Tsar, by Siam’s King Rama V. In later years, the hotel was repurposed as an officers club for the Japanese Army during WWII and then as accommodation for liberated Allied prisoners of war. The Oriental then underwent restoration and reopened in 1947 with the aim of becoming a premier hotel in Bangkok.

After acquiring a 49 per cent interest in The Oriental, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group then went on to rebrand the Bangkok institution under the Mandarin Oriental name in 2008.

Image: The Tea Room at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok | Source: Mandarin Oriental

The Fan Campaign

Launched in 2000, The Fan Campaign is Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s award-winning advertising campaign that ‘connects the Group’s well recognised symbol -the fan- with international celebrities who regularly stay at the hotels and are true fans of Mandarin Oriental’.

Among the fans of Mandarin Oriental’s luxury hotels are Stanley Tucci, Barry Humphries, Dev Patel, Dame Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Lucy Liu and Morgan Freeman. As pointed out by the Advertising Association in London, the campaign highlighted how the rich and famous, ‘who could afford to stay anywhere, chose Mandarin Oriental.’

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