2020 | Tai O Heritage Hotel and Young Leaders Preserve Culture for Future Generations
9 October 2020

With the renewed interest in domestic travel amidst the COVID-19 situation, Hong Kong citizens are keen to explore the city’s beautiful scenery and hidden gems. Tai O Heritage Hotel (‘Hotel’), revitalised from the Old Tai O Police Station that was completed in 1902 and designated as a Grade II historic building, is a wonderful destination for cultural tours.  Nestled on a hill overlooking Tai O and the South China Sea, the nine-room boutique hotel has meticulously retained the traces of history and beautiful architecture for the public to admire.


The Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation (‘HCF’), which operates the Hotel, is a committed advocate of heritage conservation and eco-tourism.  It has been operating the Hotel as a not-for-profit social enterprise since the Hotel’s opening in March 2012, with surpluses used to support maintenance of the site.  In a further effort to support, HCF has launched the Hospitality Young Leaders Programme (‘Programme’), recruiting ten enthusiastic local graduates and providing them with comprehensive training in hospitality and heritage conservation.


Conservation is more than repair and maintenance of historic buildings, it is about revitalisation, education and engagement with the community. The revitalisation of the Hotel has been conducted in accordance with the authoritative Burra Charter, which stipulates that the new use should be compatible with the old one.  Original features such as cannons, searchlight and guard towers as well as the blend of Chinese and Western architectural styles like the Chinese tiled roof, wooden casement windows, and French windows, have been carefully preserved, restoring the beauty of the architecture. The Hotel received the Award of Merit from the UNESCO at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Awards, becoming the first UNESCO-awarded hotel in Hong Kong.


Through the Hospitality Young Leaders Programme, which commenced in mid-July, the ten young leaders receive six months of professional training in sustainable tourism, hospitality, heritage and cultural conservation, including stints at Tai O Heritage Hotel. The young leaders equip themselves with practical skills and knowledge, in addition to getting involved in an array of activities to promote eco-tourism, cultural conservation and traditional festivities.


Mr Daryl Ng, Director of the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation, spearheads the meaningful programme. ‘Hong Kong is blessed with a blend of history and modernity as well as committed and talented youth, who have the potential to contribute in a positive way. Through the Hospitality Young Leaders Programme, we provide aspiring young leaders with opportunities to experience first-hand Tai O Heritage Hotel, revitalised from the classical architecture completed in 1902 and Hong Kong’s first UNESCO-awarded hotel. We are delighted that the young leaders can learn more about Hong Kong’s history and culture, helping them to appreciate the city’s rich traditions. We look forward to the young leaders’ energy and contributions to the Hotel and the community,’ remarks Mr Ng.


Additionally, the HCF initiated ‘Tai O Stilt House Restoration Programme’ in 2018, subsidising the elderly in repairing and restoring stilt houses in order to preserve the unique cultural and architectural treasures. Six stilt houses have been restored since launch.


Hilda Lee, one of the young leaders, appreciates the opportunity, which enables her to introduce the history of the Old Tai O Police Station and the charm of Tai O to visitors. ‘The architectural significance of the Old Tai O Police Station, blending Chinese and Western designs, epitomises Hong Kong’s East-meets-West charisma.  The building carries valuable artefacts and collective memories,’ remarks Hilda. Another young leader, Joyce Yung, adds that Tai O stilt houses carry unique history, culture and conventional wisdom.