In a renewal of the old Tai Po Police Station, built 120 years ago to fight pirates, the Tai O Heritage Hotel celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and looks back on the close relationship it has forged with the local community .
The Old Tai O Police Station was converted by the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation (HCF) into the Tai O Heritage Hotel, which opened in March 2012 and is run as a non-profit social enterprise. Known for its mixed colonial and Chinese architecture, the classically elegant hotel is home to nine colonial-style rooms, a heritage interpretation center, and a glass-roofed restaurant with uninterrupted views called Tai O Lookout.
Since opening in 2012, the hotel has welcomed over 1.7 million domestic and international visitors. As well as providing a comfortable and sophisticated lodging experience for guests, it offers free daily tours to the general public and charities, and organizes a range of community activities including eco-tours.
While the Old Tai O Police Station was built in the early 20th century to protect Tai O Village from pirates then prevalent in the neighboring waters, today the revitalized hotel plays an equally important role in supporting the well-being and development of the local community a bridge connecting it to the rest of Hong Kong.
“We, the Tai O Heritage Hotel, have been an integral part of the Tai O Village through thick and thin,” notes Melanie Kwok, Assistant General Manager (Sustainability) of HCF. “We are connected like one big family.”
The Tai O Heritage Hotel has worked hand in hand with the local community for many years to preserve its unique heritage by chronicling its history, tradition, customs and the many remarkable stories that make up the collective memory of the Tai O community. “We’re not just about preserving historic buildings, but more importantly, we’re making every effort to preserve cultural heritage,” says Kwok. “We want to encourage more people to learn more about Tai O and share in the allure of its rich history.”
As part of a concerted effort to pass this legacy on to the next generation, the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation has launched a Hospitality Young Leaders Programme, which provides a platform for up-and-coming local graduates to acquire practical and professional skills in hospitality and… learning ecology. tourism, and gain valuable insight into heritage preservation.
Joyce, who majored in psychology and urban governance at university, joined the program after graduation. “Shortly after joining the program, I was seamlessly immersed in village life,” she recalls. “I would describe my relationship with the Tai O villagers as more than just friends. They welcomed me with open arms and often invited me to their homes for dinner; We also celebrated various festivals together and enjoyed each other’s company. That is a true blessing!”
Karl Law, Manager of Tai O Heritage Hotel, describes the hotel as a place full of human warmth. “Whenever we are threatened by typhoons, our staff have teamed up to distribute emergency kits to elderly villagers living in stilt houses. They know they can always count on our helping hand.”
Oanh, housekeeper of Tai O Heritage Hotel, shares the heartwarming experiences of guests returning to the hotel with homemade cakes and desserts for them. “I’m really thankful that Tai O villagers are proud of our hotel,” she adds. “The elderly villagers would even recommend their grandchildren returning from overseas to stay at our hotel. The hotel is truly an icon of Tai O.”
2022 is a particularly meaningful year for Tai O Heritage Hotel as it celebrates its 10th anniversary and the 120th anniversary of the Old Tai O Police Station Building, as well as the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Hong Kong SAR. A special ceremony was held on June 11 to mark this milestone.
Looking to the future, Tai O Heritage Hotel reaffirms its commitment to supporting the local community, promoting sustainable development and preserving its heritage, adds Melanie.