Staying in a 5 star hotel in the post war era and early 60s was a privilege for the few with the financial muscle and it was mostly for business.
Although the Americans were the frontrunners who started travelling in the 60’s and 70’s, in the early days most international hotels were linked to airlines, who required hotels with the opening of a new travel destination. South America and parts of Asia were the frontiers for their new adventures and tourism development. One of the most significant players in those days was “Pan Am” leading the push into unchartered territories…
IHC, as it was known during those days (now IHG – Intercontinental Hotel Group) was then owned by “Pan Am”. It was a trailblazer in many outbound destinations and many of its properties became, or still are, landmarks in their respective locations. Those were the glorious days when hoteliers were stars in their own right and the hotels became the social hubs of many cities and sometimes countries… Many a time they were the only places to find a good meal, a drink and the opportunity to meet fellow travellers, exchange stories and tips and experience the cultures at its very rawest. These locations were often untouched, even fairly primitive, with these newly opened hotels being the first look into the western world.
Today many of these properties are gone and it is difficult to imagine a situation where there might only be one international standard hotel in a destination, for example:-
- The only hotel in Kabul during the late 60s early 70s was the Intercontinental Kabul;
- The Bali Beach Intercontinental that opened in 1964 on the Beach in Sanur and today is still one of the only high-rise developments on the island, although no longer operated by IHG;
- The Colombo Intercontinental, Sri Lanka was another property that set standards for the country in terms of tourism development.
Some others that created history, and in many cases an illustrious reputation:-
- The famous Forum Hotel in Singapore. The Forum (also part of IHC) was located at the very beginning of Orchard Road with huge rooms and was home to a famous nightclub that never lost its attraction even during the last few months of its operation.
- The Borobudur in Jakarta during its heyday was the social hub for anyone coming to Jakarta and also for foreigners living in the city. The French were certainly well known for bringing the best food in town to the hotel, not to mention the Pastry Shop that had people lining up.
Hotel development in the Middle East was then still restricted to a few key gateway locations. Amman, Jordan – which still today remains under the IHG banner; Beirut with the famous Phoenician that was bombed and destroyed during the war in mid 70s – the General Manager sadly killed making sure everyone else had left the property safely; Teheran, under the government of the Shah was one of those operations that featured significantly in the political developments after the Shahs departure. One should not forget the Jerusalem property with its magnificent location overlooking the city from the Mount of Olives.
Those of us in the ‘mature age’ group who remember, or were part of this era, occasionally feel a little sentimental for those times. We remember the traveller tales, the interesting people we met and long flights to get to these destinations. The flights and stopover experiences are a subject for another story….
About the author
Karl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.
For more information about Karl and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net