The hotel now stands at 52 floors with a good view of the city
By LYDIA NATHAN
EQ HOTEL, which recently opened its doors after a massive redevelopment that cost over RM1 billion on what was once the site of the iconic Equatorial Hotel, is envisioned to claim the top spot in the Kuala Lumpur hospitality market.
EQ GM Robert Rick Lagerwey said the aim is achievable as every bit of the building, staff, food and beverage offerings were deeply thought about and was built with the guests in mind.
“Equatorial in Kuala Lumpur (KL) was first opened in 1973, while as a group, we are turning 50 this year.
“Equatorial KL was founded when there were hardly any hotels on this strip with the dirt roads still visible. The idea of renovating did arise, but it was simply too complicated so we tore it down and started from scratch,” he said to The Malaysian Reserve.
The demolition was followed by the construction of the new structure started in 2012.
The hotel, which was an 18-storey building before the demolition, now stands at 52 floors with a good view of the city.
Lagerway said the seven years of rebuilding and rebranding the icon include an extensive market study that led to the hotel’s current concept, as well as services that are offered to its guests.
“We wanted to be a hotel with no barriers to entry, a place where people are genuinely caring and approachable.
“For instance, we’ve kept Nipah Restaurant, I remember the old days when people could sit for hours eating and chatting because of its nice and relaxed atmosphere. So, we’ve kept that intact,” he said.
He said the hotel business today is all about good location and that is something the group could leverage on from the beginning.
“We do not want to be a trendy hotel, but to remain relevant and continue improving as we go. During training, we are taught to be inquisitive and to be more tenacious at every part of the job,” he said.
He added staff that are part of the EQ family are all there because of the similar core values shared.
Lagerwey said the management also decided that the hotel’s rooms and services will open gradually.
“The hotel has 440 rooms and we’ve opened more than 200, so far. EQ chose to have a controlled occupancy rate by choice, so we can continuously ensure the rooms and service are growing and achieving levels that are acceptable.
“Of course we’ve had guests that would ask why the rooftop bar isn’t open yet, but most of them have been very understanding. It’s part of our business strategy and we are happy that we did it this way,” Lagerwey said.
He said positioning the hotel among the top players is vital as part of the rebranding exercise.
“Previously, we were a four-and-a half star hotel, but obviously the desire to start playing in the five star market was there. The soft launch was in March and by May, we received the five-star accreditation which we are very proud of,” he said.
Lagerway’s job is mainly marrying the old Equatorial specialties with the newer, snazzier concept of EQ.
“We thought about simple things that guests could want. For example, every hotel would have a pool. So we thought, why not make it extra special by including speakers underwater so guests can enjoy some music while swimming?
“Our pool is half the size of an Olympic one, 25m across with a stunning view. Huge importance is put on the small details of every guest.
“Our Presidential Suite that sits on the 50th floor has already been booked in advance and has been consistent. It takes up two floors and we’ve had some very high profile people staying there already,” he said.
Lagerwey said another specialty the hotel will offer is the AHA Suite which will be ready soon.
“This will be a one of a kind suite, with a balcony and jacuzzi inside. There’s also a bar. It’s got all the X-factors to draw our loyal customers to give it a try,” he said. Lagerwey also said the hotel’s catering business also “took off like a rocket”, which was a surprise to the management.
“I’m shocked because we are producing results close to a mature hotel so far.
“We’ve done more than five weddings in three months. Every experience is unique and different from the rest.
“We did an Indian wedding a month ago that lasted over four days. By the end of that, we had not only got additional business from there, but also grew very close to the families involved which was lovely,” he said.
EQ has also been awarded the Green Building Index, an accreditation that was achieved shortly after opening.
Lagerwey said the new building could have been built for much less, but it was important for the group to make it a sustainable structure and not contribute to environmental concerns.
“We are actually the first mixed development building to receive this award and we are very happy. We recycle water, conserve energy with natural sunlight in all rooms and meeting rooms, and we are also one of the first to have a magnetic chiller that is highly efficient,” he said.
Lagerwey said the art of a hotel business did not only refer to selling rooms, but also building strong foundations with loyal customers.
“We are humbled by the feedback. It’s about catering to one customer at a time and we believe we have a chance to provide that exact special experience for our guests. We are simply here to tell everyone that we are back,” Lagerwey said.