Recommend’s managing editor had the opportunity to chat with Dean Winter, managing director, Swire Hotels, on what’s new at the hotel group’s properties—located in destination ranging from Chengdu to Beijing to Miami—what his favorite dining experiences are, and what he’s learned about wellness from the Swire Hotels’ offerings. And, for advisors looking to book their clients at one of these properties, he’s also sharing who the ideal client for you to book is—spoiler: it ranges from business to leisure to family travelers.

Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): Wellness seems to be top of mind for many travelers after the last year in lockdown/quarantine. What are some wellness experiences at Swire Hotels that guests can take part in? Which one is your favorite?

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Dean Winter. (Photo courtesy of Swire Hotels.)

Dean Winter (DW): After a year and more of uncertainty and lockdown, wellness has definitely become more of a priority for so many people, and so it is only natural that travelers are looking for wellness experiences to escape to and keep them grounded. Both of our brands at Swire HotelsThe House Collective and EAST—have always seen the importance of wellness, and therefore have always offered different wellness experiences to both hotel guests and the surrounding community. The House Collective and EAST both partner with wellness brands such as lululemon, Space, MAIA Active, Nike and Bamford, as well as individual experts to create different wellness experiences. The experiences range from monthly run clubs, yoga and dance classes to more reflective and meditative sessions of energy and sound healing. I can’t say I’ve personally participated in the wellness sessions before, but I’m always intrigued by the different experiences that the properties offer, as there are many of which I never even knew existed, broadening both my wellness knowledge and introducing something new to guests and the community.

MMA: Can you tell us more about the new guest programs such as The House Collective Chefs Story? How does it work?

DW: Chefs Story is a recent collaboration between the three Chinese cuisine chefs of The House Collective. Chefs Tony Ye from The Middle House Shanghai, Li Dong from The Opposite House Beijing, and Tony Xu from The Temple House Chengdu joined forces to create a special menu inspired by memories of their hometowns. They journeyed back to the places where they grew up and hunted down old family photos while sharing the experiences, people, and inspirations that made them who they are today. The Chefs Story limited edition menu features two dishes from each chef that tell their own personal story and journey in becoming a chef. The feedback from our guests and media friends who have been really encouraging, saying that it’s a really fresh idea having three chefs from different background to create one unique menu.

MMA: Tell us more about the new Art Program, which started this month. How are guests invited to explore the spaces, what exactly is the experience?

DW: Encounters Across Cultures is The House Collective’s biennial art program that was first launched back in 2019. Encounters Across Cultures 2021 revolves around dance and architecture where the guests are invited to interact with the installation by controlling the time and pace in which the dancers explore the different spaces of the Houses, ultimately creating their own journey through our Houses. This year’s art program is extra special to us because of the challenges of the pandemic, quarantines and travel restrictions that we overcame. We found a way to collaborate virtually between different time zones, language barriers, and cultures; the dancers had to learn choreography virtually and we couldn’t even be there in person to direct and see it all come together. And yet, we were able to create something beautiful together, truly encountering cultures throughout the process.

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Poolside at The Opposite House.(Photo courtesy of Swire Hotels.)

MMA: How is Swire Hotels making sure guests will be safe once travel reopens? Have you implemented any new systems/protocols?

DW: Our protocols vary slightly from destination to destination, with all teams across the Swire Hotels portfolio regularly assessing and updating protocols according to the local and global situation as well as advice from local authorities. Even so, our hotel teams have set a basic standard, which include noninvasive temperature checks using machines that detect people’s temperature as they walk by, contactless technology such as QR codes for restaurant menus and ordering, regular testing of the R&B team members, requiring guests to complete travel and health declaration forms, and of course regular deep cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

With all these protocols, we still try to go about them in our unique Swire Hotels way to ensure that the experience at our properties continues to inspire and rejuvenate. For example, in EAST Miami, we have some playful floor stickers throughout the common areas, which help to remind guests and locals to keep their distance apart.

Our service philosophy has always been extremely personal—we actually refer to our guests as ‘individualists,’ meaning that we respond to each in a personalized, open-minded, and receptive manner, and this will certainly continue to be the case. 

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Bay King guestroom at East Miami. (Photo courtesy of Swire Hotels.)

MMA: Who would you say is the ideal guest for the Andre Fu Suite at The Upper House in Hong Kong? What special features/experiences can guests enjoy in the suite?

DW: I don’t necessarily think there is an ideal guest for the Andre Fu Suite. The space was renovated to be flexible and accommodating for various purposes including the addition of a dining table set for 20, a bathroom with a dedicated spa area and massage beds. Our team at The Upper House can really transform the suite into what the guest needs and wants the place to be.

Combining the refined experience of a luxury hotel with the privacy and comfort of a contemporary residence, the Andre Fu Suite offers guests a true sense of home. Intimate and inviting, the suite enables hosts to embrace their personal expression of living and is designed to enable relaxation and socializing in equal measure.

MMA: When it comes to culinary, what are some of your favorite experiences at Swire Hotels? What would you suggest as a must-do?

DW: This is a tough one because I truly enjoy the food our restaurants serve; we go through a lot of effort to create something that is both unique and tasty. But if I were to highlight some of them, it would be Salisterra at The Upper House in Hong Kong, Mi Xun Teahouse at The Temple House Chengdu, Superfly at The Opposite House Beijing, and Quinto la Huella at EAST Miami.

Salisterra at The Upper House in Hong Kong is our newest restaurant concept that was created in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Jun Tanaka and architect Andre  Fu, a combination that created an experience that is both pleasing to the tastebuds and eyes.

Mi Xun Teahouse at The Temple House in Chengdu is truly one-of-a-kind, serving plant-based Sichuan dishes and Chinese teas in a Qing dynasty courtyard.

Superfly at The Opposite House in Beijing is a super cool Sichuan-inspired gastro-bar that reinvents classic Sichuan dishes in a retro-casual setting that is perfect for hangouts, complete with upbeat playlists and urban street influences.

Quinto la Huella at EAST Miami brings a dash of Latin American flair to Miami, with an authentic open-fire parrilla and wood-fire oven. Our signature eatery is an urban reinvention of Uruguay’s beachfront restaurant Parador La Huella serving wholesome flavors in a rustic chic dining room and terrace.

MMA: For advisors booking clients to one of the Swire Hotels properties, what tips do you have for them? How would you describe the ideal Swire guest?

DW: We believe that the understated luxury for which The House Collective stands for is a perfect fit for the cosmopolitan, sophisticated, yet slightly non-conformist personality of travelers. While the EAST brand appeals to guests traveling for work or pleasure, individuals, as well as young families who care about work-life balance and like to have some fun.

Our guests generally come from multiple identities—successful business leaders, innovators, influential taste makers, as well as family-oriented individuals. Hence, knowing our guests as people and not just as a segment of customer is critical for us to deliver service and experiences that truly attract them and serve their needs, creating relationships that last beyond the stay.

Every one of our hotels under our two brands The House Collective and EAST is unique and has its own character and each location reflects the unique surroundings, creating an entirely refreshing experience at each of the properties. So I would highly recommend for anyone that stays with us to explore the surroundings; be sure to ask our Guest Experience team for tips to discover the hidden gems of the city.

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For a photo re-cap of our stay, don’t miss our installment of Eye on the World: EAST, Miami.