Shangri-La: Celebrating 50 years of Asian hospitality

By Kate Birch
Credited with pioneering Asian hospitality, iconic Singaporean brand Shangri-La turns 50. From a single hotel in 1971 to 100+ in 2021, we chart its history

Pioneers of Asian hospitality and one of the world’s most iconic Asian hospitality brands Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts Group has come a long way since its debut in Singapore in 1971.

Fast forward five decades, as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the Group now boasts a portfolio that spans four different hotel brands, 100-plus properties, and 75 destinations.

As travel demand rebounds, the Hong Kong-listed company reported increased revenues for the six months ending 30 June 2021, up 20.4% to US$45.8m compared to the same period last year. While its hotel business performance in Mainland China was above the pre-pandemic period of May 2019.

With the company’s “overall financial position remaining healthy with adequate liquidity for a prolonged pandemic,” according to Lim Beng Chee, Shangri-La Group’s CEO, the Group is looking to the future – having unveiled a refreshed brand logo, and with a focus on targeting multi-generational families to generate a new source of revenue.

Here, we outline the journey and evolution of this iconic brand and now successful company.

1970s – 1980s

Shangri-La was born in Singapore in 1971 by Robert Kuok, paving the way for a new standard in Asian hospitality. During the 70s, three more Shangri-La’s debuted, two in Malaysia and one in Fiji. In the 80s, Kuok formed Shangri-La International Hotel Management, and the group accrued hotel location firsts, including Hong Kong, China and Thailand, and unveiled new hotel brand Traders, opening the first in Beijing. 


The 90s saw Shangri-La International Hotel Management assume control of all owned properties and Shangri-La Asia go public, the latter buying the former. There were numerous Asia-wide hotel openings including debuts of Shangri-Las in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Jakarta and the launch of third hotel brand First Kerry Hotel, opening in Beijing. The Group’s guest loyalty programme Golden Circle was introduced. 


The Group entered North America and Australia with Shangri-La openings in Sydney and Vancouver and expanded in Asia with debuts in Japan and India. Shangri-La unveiled its first branded spa, Chi, The Spa, in Bangkok, and first commercial complex with office/ retail space, in Mongolia. And in 2009, the Group unveiled its flagship CSR programmes to support social and environmental development. 


This decade marked the 100th Shangri-La opening (Xiamen, China), and saw Shangri-La enter Europe (Paris, London) and expand Asia-wide entering Sri Lanka. Reiterating its brand values (nature, sustainability), Shangri-La launched the ‘It’s in Our Nature’ global campaign; unveiled an initiative in support of local/fair sourcing; listed on the Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices; and introduced its ‘No Shark Fin’ policy. Launches included: fourth hotel brand (Hotel JEN), dedicated interactive kids’ play space (buds by Shangri-La), and first standalone dining venue (Shang Social, Singapore airport).


The Group upped the ante on tech this decade, becoming the first international hotel group to deploy robot butlers (JEN hotels, Singapore), and the first hotel group to offer e-services under WeChat including online pay and offline deposit for guests, a partnership with Tencent. Recent happenings include Shangri-La Istanbul debuting the world’s first Baklava butler, opening of Shangri-La Saudi Arabia, launch of the Group’s family-centric brand Fam.ily, and celebrating Shangri-La’s 50th anniversary in 2021 with the launch of a new brand logo featuring a designed inspired by Asian calligraphic elements.


Featured Videos

View all

Schneider Electric - Global Specialist in Energy Management

Digital Strategy

Allianz Malaysia: Closer to customers through digital