Step Back in Time at Asia's Grand Heritage Hotels
By Giovanni Angelini - Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Thursday, 8th February 2024

Giovanni Angelini, is a senior and well respected professional within the Hospitality industry world-wide and with a wealth of experiences of over 50 years acquired in 3 Continents, Asia in particular. A former executive and the CEO of the Shangri-La Hotels and ResortsExclusive Feature - Across the diverse tapestry of Asian countries and cultures, magnificent heritage hotels stand as living testaments to bygone eras, whispering tales of empires and cultural crossroads.

These "grand dames", meticulously maintained and overflowing with character, offer a unique blend of history, luxury, and cultural immersion.

From the Bosphorus Strait to the Subcontinent to the Far East, most existing Asian heritage hotels were created by wealthy merchants, heads of state, and Maharajas between the 18th and 20th centuries, while some date as far back as the 8th century.

While some structures were built as hotels, others occupy former palaces, forts, and mansions. Built along ancient trade routes, or nestled in bustling cities, they reflect a captivating fusion of local and colonial architecture. Opulent, spacious, and adorned with intricate carvings, high ceilings, selected marble floors, and crystal chandeliers, they are remnants of a time when luxury knew no bounds.

Woven into the very fabric of their surroundings, these historic hotels (some listed under UNESCO Heritage) have transcended mere lodging to become tourist attractions in their own right and continue to welcome a wreath of affluent travelers from across the globe seeking to experience the old charm and culture.

Listed below are just some of the iconic heritage properties still operating today. (In case I have missed your favorite one, please let me know in the comments).

Heritage Hotels opened before the Second World War in Asia

Opening Year Names/Brands & Location

705 Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Hayakawa, Japan (oldest operating in the world)
718 Hōshi Ryokan, Komatsu, Ishikawa, Japan
1191 Arima Onsen, Kita-ku, Kobe, Japan
1684 Amangalla Hotel, Galle, Sri-Lanka (former Dutch & British Offices)
1700 Abbasi Hotel (Shah Abbas), Isfahan, Iran
1727 The Raj Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
1729 Sujan Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
1746 Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur, India (now Taj)
1756 Jing’s Residence, Pingyao, China
1783 Elgin Fairlawn Heritage Hotel, Kolkata, India
1806 Mount Lavinia Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka
1832 Royale Chulan Hotel, Penang, Malaysia
1835 Rambach Palace Hotel, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
1841 LaLiT Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata, India
1856 Bellevue-Dibbets/Salak Heritage Hotel, Bogor, Indonesia
1861 Fort Canning Hotel, Singapore (former British Military Administration)
1863 Adelphi Hotel, Singapore (now Adelphi complex) (Sarkies Brothers) *
1864 Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, Sri-Lanka
1867 Cigaran Palace, Istanbul, Turkey (former Ottoman Palace)
1874 Palmira Hotel, Baalbek, Lebanon
1875 Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka
1876 Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand (now Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok)
1880 Hotel Continental, Saigon, Vietnam
1880 Falletti’s Hotel, Lahore, Pakistan
1880 Capella Hotel, Sentosa, Singapore (former British Garrisons)
1885 Lal Durbar Palace/Yak & Yeti Hotel, Kathmandu, Nepal
1885 Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang, Malaysia (Sarkies Brothers) *
1887 Raffles Hotel, Singapore (Sarkies Brothers) *
1887 Elgin Heritage Resort & SPA, Darjeeling, Himalaya, India
1888 Grand Kolkata Hotel, Kolkata, India (now the Oberoi Grand)
1888 Okura Hotel, Kyoto, Japan
1890 Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
1891 e’L Kartika Wijaya Hotel, Batu, East Java, Indonesia (Sarkies Brothers) *
1891 Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (former Governor Residence)
1892 West End Hotel, Bangalore, India
1892 Pera Palace Hotel, Tepebasi - Istanbul, Turkey
1895 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai, Thailand
1900 Miyako Hotel, Kyoto, Japan (now Westin)
1900 Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore (former Teutonia Club)
1901 Strand Hotel, Yangon, Burma (Sarkies Brothers) *
1901 Metropole Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam (now Sofitel)
1902 Tai O Heritage Hotel, Lantau Island, Hong Kong (former Police Station)
1902 Maidens Hotel, Delhi, India
1902 American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel
1903 Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India
1904 Satri House Hotel, Luang Prabang, Laos
1908 Chakrabongse Villa, Bangkok, Thailand
1909 Nara Hotel, Nara, Japan
1909 Shanghai Club/Hotel, Shanghai, China (now Waldorf Astoria)
1910 Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya, Indonesia (Sarkies Brothers) *
1910 Phoenix Hotel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
1910 Hotel Ibrahim Pasha, Istanbul, Turkey (former residence)
1912 Manila Hotel, Manila, Philippines
1914 Chosen Hotel, Seoul, Korea (now Westin Chosun, new building)
1914 Shanghai Ruijin/Morris Garden Hotel, Shanghai, China (now InterContinental)
1914 Jacir Palace Hotel, Bethlehem, Palestine (former residence)
1915 Tokyo Station Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
1915 Grand Hotel de Pekin, Beijing, China
1919 Four Seasons at Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey (former resid & prison)
1920 Belmond Governor's Residence, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
1920 Rex Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam
1920 Majestic Hotel, Malacca, Malaysia (former Mansion)
1923 Cafe Batavia & Hermitage Hotel, Jakarta, Indonesia
1923 Railway Hotel, Hua Hin, Thailand (now Centara Grand)
1926 Rachamankha Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
1926 French Club/Hotel, Shanghai, China (now Okura)
1927 Centre Hotel, Nanjing, China (now Zhongyang Hotel)
1928 Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong SAR
1928 Tjampuhan Hotel, Ubud-Bali, Indonesia
1928 Fullerton Hotel, Singapore (hotel since 2001, former General Post Office)
1929 Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India (now Taj)
1929 Cathay Hotel, Shanghai, China (now Peace Hotel, Fairmont)
1929 Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (now Raffles)
1930 La Residence Hue Hotel & Spa, Hue, Vietnam
1930 Cameron Highlands Resort, Pahang, Malaysia
1930 Jian Ye Li Mansion, Shanghai, China (now Capella Shanghai)
1930 Oranje Hotel, Singapore (now the Capitol Kempinski Hotel)
1931 King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel
1932 Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1932 Settha Palace Hotel, Vientiane, Laos
1932 Grand Hotel d'Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia (now Raffles)
1934 Metropolo Classiq Hotel, Shanghai, China (now Jianjiang Hotel)
1936 Imperial Hotel, Kyoto, Japan
1936 Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, India
1938 Yabshi Phunkhang Heritage Hotel, Lhasa, China

*FYI: The first hotel group in Asia (a portfolio of 9 Hotels) was founded and managed by the Sarkies Brothers & Family;
Hotels included: 1863 - The Adelphi Hotel, Singapore. 1884 - The Eastern Hotel Penang and in 1885 - The Oriental Hotel Penang that in 1889 were combined into the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. 1887 - The Raffles Hotel, Singapore. 1891 - The Kartika Wijaya, Batu-East Java, Indonesia. 1901 - The Strand Hotel in Rangoon. 1905 - The Crag Hotel in Penang. 1910 - The Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya. 1923 - The Seaview Hotel, Singapore.

Also Read: Evolution of the Asian Hotel Brands

Giovanni Angelini
A 50 year veteran of the Hotel-Hospitality-travel industry with a wealth of experience acquired in 4 Continents, Asia in particular. A long term resident of Hong Kong and Retired Chief Executive Officer of Shangri-La International.

A board member of several large corporations and member of many industry related and quality management organisations. Founder of Angelini Hospitality, providing consultancy and advisory work to developers and hotels-travel-tourism organisations.

Recipient of two Honoris Causa (Doctorate) in Business Administration and in Global Business Leadership, four Lifetime Achievement Awards, the 2006 Corporate Hotelier of the World, Maestro del Lavoro (2014) and of several other recognitions and awards.


Book: Winning Hospitality - Practical advice for sustainable success (Kindle Edition)
In Winning Hospitality, Giovanni Angelini condenses around 60 years of international hospitality experience into tips and advice for hotel operators and owners, senior and young executives, students, teachers, and anyone striving for excellence in the demanding and dynamic world of travel and tourism planning and management.

The text serves as a vital reference for anyone seeking to develop the business activities, teams, brands, skills and hotels necessary to delight guests, customers, employees, and owners alike – today, and for many years to come.

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