feature_Coverstory_710x350.jpg WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN

Genting Group Chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay has some big ideas and some even bigger ships lined up for the future. With the imminent scaling-up of his cruise-liner business, Lim is all set to become an ever more prominent fixture among Hong Kong’s business elite.

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay is a Malaysian billionaire and he’s got Hong Kong in his sights.

We met one day ahead of the arrival of Lim’s giant new cruise liner, Genting Dream, a 151,000-tonne behemoth, far larger than any of the other ships owned by Lim. It is ranked among the largest cruise ships in the world. 

If you happened to see the Genting Dream arriving in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour that Saturday night, you would have seen a light show as big and sophisticated as any you’d find in the buildings that make up Hong Kong’s legendary skyline. 

The move into vastly bigger ships heralds the arrival of a truly global player in the cruise ship business, far beyond Lim’s stronghold in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. If you have plans on the water, whether you are a successful professional or an ultra-high-net-worth individual, Lim has something in mind for you.

Lim, whose wealth is estimated by Forbes at US$4.5 billion, is a trained engineer and it shows. This man likes to tinker; often to the consternation of his staff, as he himself admits. He also appreciates a challenge, offering a simple “why not?” to any idea, however outlandish it may seem. He seems to regard any challenge as something that simply requires a patient application of energy. 

“I’ve been involved in designing all my ships, just like I get involved in designing all my resorts, and all my hotels. I know that part of the job very well – it’s my favourite part!” When asked about what changes or additions he’s made to his cruise ships, Lim answers without hesitation: “I change everything! [The design team] knows no better. The one-eyed man – that’s me – is the king of the blind. They have not been on the customer’s side. Neither have they been on the owner’s side. I have.” 

Design in this case is not about matching carpets with wall fixtures; Lim speaks the language of schematics, specs and features, right down to the HVAC systems. But Lim also picked up his sense for knowing what works and what doesn’t from his own sojourns into yacht and cruise liner ownership.

In the early 1980s, Lim decided he should give cruise liners a try. Genting, then headed by his father, Lim Goh Tong, had moved on from its industrial beginnings to be a major resort owner/operator, starting with a major resort in Genting, Malaysia (from which the holding company draws its name). It was at this point that the family’s business switched from industrial supply to resorts and casinos.

Find the full article in the Febraury issue of The Peak.

feature_Citybranding_710x350.jpg WHEN CITIES TELL STORIES

Just over 20 years ago, Hong Kong was given the slogan, 'Asia's World City'. Is it still relevant? And what has been learned about the elusive art of city branding since then?

When Hong Kong’s former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa unveiled the city’s new branding as “Asia’s World City” at the Global Economic Forum in 2001, few doubted that Hong Kong deserved the title. Geographically, Hong Kong is at the centre of Asia; economically, it boasts one of the freest trading zones in the world; and thanks to its colonial legacy, it’s one of the few cities in the region that can claim full bilingual ability. Riding on the tail of an economy that was still recovering from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the SAR’s position as Asia’s World City made a lot of sense. 

 Yet, while Hong Kong might have been able to lay claim to it in the early 2000s, does the city still live up to this grand title? 
As with any type of marketing, the first step of a city branding campaign is to identify the target. Patrick Mack is marketing executive director at Landor Associates, and was a senior brand consultant for the government’s Brand Hong Kong initiative back in 1998, which primarily targeted MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) businesses. 

“[At that time], in the eyes of many, Hong Kong was innovative, but not very obliging or kind,” notes Mack. “We wanted to communicate Hong Kong as a place where creativity and entrepreneurship converge. It is creative and dynamic but also very business-oriented”. After a three-year-long consulting and strategising process, Hong Kong was re-positioned as Asia’s World City, with an accompanying logo of a multi-hued dragon. 

 It’s common for city branding efforts to invoke ire among its occupants, many of whom will be taxpayers and will therefore want their opinion to be heard. It’s also “an indication that people are passionate about their own city,” according to David Mineyama-Smithson, executive creative director of Landor Greater China. While Asia’s World City aimed to convey Hong Kong’s geographical advantages and economic status in the region, there were, and are, plenty who criticised the slogan for not telling the whole truth about the city. After all, Hong Kong is notorious for having one of the biggest wealth gaps among the world’s developed nations. 
“We came up with various ideas at the time,” recalls Mack of the process. “I remember ‘Where the World Comes to do Business in Asia’ was one [suggestion], but it was too business-oriented so we tossed that one out. If you think about it, Asia’s World City could easily be used as a tourism slogan. When you emphasise a certain idea for one audience, you are automatically reducing it for another. It’s inevitable.” 

Find the full article in the February issue of The Peak.

feature_density_710x350.jpg THE URBAN LABORATORY

The architectural programmes at Hong Kong's universities are using the urban environment as a kind of high density laboratory, to figure out how to make the city work better, and even offer insights into how future metropolitans should develop.

Architects use a lot of digital tools in their work, but Twitter isn’t usually one of them. Three years ago, Huang Jianxiang left his job in the United States and moved to Hong Kong to become an assistant professor in the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Architecture. “It was such a cultural shock – the density, the crowdedness, the lack of public space,” he recalls. Coming from the spaciousness of American cities, Hong Kong’s endless high-rises and cramped apartments felt maddening. That’s when Huang asked himself a question: “Do certain types of neighbourhood make you happy – or drive you nuts?” 

The answer, it turns out, could be found online. Huang’s wife, Li Lishuai, is a data scientist at City University of Hong Kong and together they hatched a plan to use social media to track how people felt about their surroundings. “This is probably the best place in the world to study social media and the built environment,” says Huang. Most Hongkongers have smartphones and most of them use social media, and because the city is so dense, it’s easy to find a large sample of people in any given location. Many tweets are tagged with the location of the person who wrote them, so Huang’s team collected thousands of these messages and developed an algorithm that scanned them for keywords, which it used to determine the sentiment of the person who wrote it. 

Sure enough, the data proved Huang’s hypothesis correct: some neighbourhoods really do make people feel happier. That’s true even after controlling for age and income. Rich neighbourhoods aren’t necessarily happier than poor neighbourhoods. Instead, it is how those neighbourhoods are built that seems to affect people’s happiness the most. “We found that big blocks correlated with negative sentiments, while people living in small blocks appear happier,” he says. 

Find the full article in the February issue of The Peak.

feature_hkarchitect_710x350.jpg VISIONS OF HONG KONG

What would Hong Kong’s new wave of architects and planners wish for their city? The Peak asked four game changers for their thoughts on the way forward.   

Find the full article in the Febrauary issue of The Peak.

February 2017 Issue