Grande Hotel (Kuok Chai) reopens today after 27 long years

The Grande Hotel Macau, better known locally by its Cantonese name “Kuok Chai,” is reopening its doors to guests after 27 long years of closure, which led the space to almost complete ruin.

Once an iconic symbol of Macau, the Grande Hotel Macau hopes to bring back some of the charm to the city center, welcoming new guests to its historical site.

Co-owned by a trio of sisters, Vivian, Jessica, and Veronica Lu, the property is to reopen its doors today after a major revamp in which some 500 million patacas was invested, the co-owners said in an interview to Jornal Tribuna de Macau.

The renewed hotel offers 96 rooms as well as some small commercial spaces, but it does not have any food and beverage venue on the premises.

According to the co-owners, who are experienced in the business of co-owning several guesthouses in Macau, the hotel aims to be an affordable option in the heart of the city accessible to a wide range of travelers, particularly those interested in the historical side of Macau.

Designed by the Macau civil engineer João Canavarro Nolasco in 1937, it was built by the contractor Tai Man Hou and named Hotel Kuok Chai.

The hotel, first opened in 1941, catered mainly to Chinese clients as an alternative to the luxury hotels that attracted most foreigners of that time, Portuguese Architect, and researcher Ana Tostões noted in extensive research conducted over certain iconic Macau buildings. The research is part of the Heritage of Portuguese Influence, a project from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation undertaken with the support of several Portuguese Universities.

Tostões notes that although it was never considered a luxury hotel, its design and inspiration from the art deco movement were very attractive to the local elite of Chinese origins.

“With modern lines and decorated with a Parisian expression of art deco, it was a place of sophistication and activity for the moneyed elite. When it was inaugurated, it was considered the highest building in the Portuguese colonial empire.”

In its golden days that spanned over the first 20 years of its existence, the Grande Hotel, on the Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, has been visited by many celebrities and local dignitaries, and gained most of its popularity after appearing as a frequent backdrop in many Hong Kong films.

At the time, the hotel was located in an even more privileged area of the city as the old steamer ferry boat, arriving from Hong Kong, would dock at the Inner Harbour area just a few meters away from the hotel.

The number of rooms will stay mostly the same (from 97 in 1941), but the hotel had originally featured a tea room on the top floor that offered an unmatched view over the city at the time.

The building began to deteriorate at the end of the 1980s and was considered obsolete as it “could no longer offer what is ordinarily considered a contemporary hotel,” Tostões added, noting the building was one of the most innovative modern buildings in Macau in the early 20th century until the construction of Hotel Lisboa in 1970.

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