Hailing from one of Hong Kong’s most influential clans, Poman Lo has an ambitious plan for her family’s hotel business — venturing into a region relatively untouched by the city’s developers with dozens of green hotels.
Regal Hotels International Holdings Ltd. is partnering with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia to build about 100 hotels around the world worth $5 billion, with an emphasis on the Middle East. It will have about 30 hotels in Saudi Arabia, Lo, vice chairman and managing director of Regal, said in an interview.
The move underscores the growing ties between Hong Kong and the Middle East as the financial hub navigates U.S.-China tensions. Lo joined Chief Executive John Lee’s trip to the region early last year with a group of business executives.
“Given the deepening ties and collaborations with Saudi and China, I think Hong Kong can play that super connector role,” Lo said. Foreign companies tend to want to work with Hong Kong companies due to the city’s legal infrastructure, she said.
With Western investors cutting capital, “a lot of Chinese funds as well as companies are going to Saudi to seek investments, so there’s a lot of business travel,” Lo said. This provides opportunities for Regal, which plans to build the hotels under the iclub brand targeting entrepreneurs.
Regal plans to finish the construction by 2035, without disclosing how much it will invest. Saudi Arabia’s investment ministry will help secure funds for the projects, while Regal is also open to accepting capital from investors in mainland China and Hong Kong. Japan, Southeast Asia and China are among other regions that Regal prioritizes.
The new hotels will seek to be carbon-neutral, a strategy that Lo says makes business sense. Big companies would prefer their staff stay at green accommodations, while funds increasingly only invest in such property, Lo said.
Regal has 19 hotels, with the majority in Hong Kong, according to its website. Lo’s father is Lo Yuk Sui, the second son of the late real estate tycoon Lo Ying Shek.
In November, China and Saudi Arabia signed a local-currency swap agreement worth $7 billion. Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited the country in 2022 for a summit where the two countries signed agreements-in-principle valued at $50 billion.
Strengthening relations with the Middle East could help boost the city’s economy and inbound investors.
"I’m still confident" in the city’s tourism, said Lo. "There’s been a drop of international travelers; hopefully, we can bring them back."