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Asia's finest - history, haunts and hotels
10th Feb 2006
A new book has just hit the shelves – Asia’s Finest Hotels, brainchild of Denis Fahy of Channel One Publications, it brings the nuts and bolts of some of the region’s best-loved properties into one tome, but with a twist on the usual format.

"Asia’s Finest Hotels perhaps paints a romantic image for the reader of each hotel, whilst not avoiding the true guest experience,” says Denis. “We don’t overstate the exacting practicalities of each hotel, leaving it to the reader to realise that they are some of Asia’s Finest and will cater to all their needs. [The book] delves into the background and individual character that gives each hotel its own unique feel.”

Denis knows the hospitality world, and he knows the world of advertising, being the man behind the idea of advertising on shop shutters. It’s an incredibly simple idea, one of those you can’t believe hadn’t been thought of before. Simple, yet very effective. Denis feels the same way. “I created the idea of people paying me to place their advertisements on [the shutters]. I would call it an ‘I should have noticed it years ago moment’. It grew out of observing the huge blank canvases for many years. I always wondered why shop owners never exploited that prime street level space. One day it all came together on a particular long boring journey stuck in traffic. I had to try it.”

Denis got the idea and made it work in Hong Kong, where he says the street layout and demographics made it work well. But apparently Singapore is following hot on Hong Kong’s heels with clients impatiently demanding Denis’ help.

The entrepreneur started out life as an avid traveler. With an older brother who piqued his curiosity about the rest of the world through his regular postcards, Denis grew up wondering why most people stayed in one place for most of their lives, and vowed not to do the same in his native Bradford.

“When I was 17, just after passing my driving test, I asked my Dad if I could borrow the car… and took it for a drive to San Marino in Italy. I thought I could pack all the experience needed to become a good driver into one week. He thought I meant around the corner!”

This sense of humour and quirky outlook on life has clearly served Denis well, and translates into the lighthearted and easy to read style he has encouraged of Dennison Kibble, the editor and lead writer of the book. The tag lines are worth picking up the book for in themselves, “View to a Thrill” for the JW Marriott Hong Kong, “Killer Diller in Manila” for the Shangri-La Makati, “Oh Man! Oh Man” for the Grand Hyatt Muscat, for example, and the little bits of historical trivia that find their way into each review are gratifyingly illuminating. But with so many competing hotel books out there, how and to whom is he planning to sell?

“We run a tight ship – as I mentioned, I’m from Yorkshire – it’s tough, yes, but fun. We are relying on strong sales as featured hotels are ordering copies from us. We are also on sale in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Later in the year distribution in the UK looks likely.”

When I asked if the upturn in the current economic and therefore hospitality market would help his cause, Denis showed a strong trust in his audience. Not just the hotels featured but also “the frequent academic traveler who appreciates an interesting and entertaining read about some of the best hotels in Asia… I think our target market is always enthusiastic about hospitality publications regardless of temporary up or downturns.”

With the comedic twist in the editorial comes a caveat in Dennison’s introduction warning readers that the reviews are subjective, which might go some way to explaining some glaring admissions, for example The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore and the Shangri-La Mactan Island to name a few. But Denis deadpans, “we had a tight deadline and a cut off point. We will increase the amount of hotels with each edition and omit some in others, where required.”

The book also includes advertisements, an unusual addition for a book that falls largely into the five star hotel review guide category. But far from affecting his choice of hotels, Denis assures me that the money accrued helped him keep the independence rather than compromising it. And after all, if there’s one thing he is an expert at, it’s advertising.

And the future? The next, even better, edition of, yes you guessed it, Asia’s Finest Hotels!
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