Crag Hotel to become Amancrag Resort

GEORGE TOWN: International luxury hotel group Amanresorts International Pte Ltd has been given the letter of award (LoA) by the Penang state government to restore, refurbish, redevelop and manage the 82-year-old Crag Hotel on Penang Hill, making it the first Amanresort for the group in Malaysia.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the hotel will be renamed the Amancrag Resort. Not only will it be the 24th Amanresort luxury hotel in the world, but it is also the first eight-star spa for the group.

Lim said Sri Nisuh Sdn Bhd (SNSB) — which was among two companies which had participated in the second request for proposal (RFP) called by the state government in Nov last year — will invest a minimum US$12 million (RM36.9 million) to finance the project, which is expected to be completed in 30 months after the agreement is signed within two weeks.

The management and marketing of the hotel will be carried out by Amanresorts, Lim said.

Lim said the company will be granted a period of 30+30+30 years under the terms and conditions to be mutually agreed upon, which will also generate income via rentals for the state government.

"We are glad that the hotel, which has a rich history, will be brought back to life at no cost to the state government, and will also put Penang on the world map of tourism. It is not only the money that will be spent to restore the hotel, but we are maintaining a priceless heritage," Lim added.

SNSB director Heah Hock Heng said Amanresorts founder Adrian Zecha himself visited the hill in August last year, and is determined to turn into a successful venture like the other 23 Amanresorts in the world.

Zecha — who is from Indonesia — incepted the first Amanresort in Phuket, Thailand in 1988, and now Amanresorts has established resorts in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the US.

Heah said the hotel will be redeveloped into 20 individual suites/villas with a deck and dining room, bedroom, living room, balcony and massage rooms while 10 suites will also come with their own swimming pool.

The main building of the Crag Hotel will be maintained and used as a restaurant and lounge bar with the existing heritage pulley system while it will also offer world class health and spa facilities.

"Each villa will be different, as we will adjust the modules according to the slopes and ridges as we want to preserve the environment in the vicinity and on the hill.

"It will be like no other Amanresort, as each resort has its own uniqueness, and we are proud to be able to have a resort in Penang, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site," Heah said.

Guests will be taken up the hill via jeep and later buggies to the hotel to preserve the existing slopes in the vicinity of the hotel.

Heah said the Amancrag would also offer Amanjunkies, — namely 220,000 Amanresort followers worldwide who are the resort's repeat customers — another destination to come to and spur tourism related activities for the hill and Penang.

The other Amanresort destinations are Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand; Amandari in Bali Indonesia; Hotel Bora Bora on Bora Bora in French Polynesia; Le Mélézin in Courchevel 1850, France; Amanusa at Nusa Dua Bali; Aman Kila also in Bali; Amanwana on  Moyo Island, at the western end of Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara archipelago; Amanpulo in Pamalican, Philippines; Amanjiwo in Central Java; Amangani at East Gros Ventre Butte near Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Amanjena at Route de Ouarzazate on the outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco; Amansara in Siem Riep, Cambodia; Aman-i-Khás and Amanbagh in Rajasthan, India; Amankora in Bhutan; Amangalla in Galle, and Amanwella in Tangalle, Sri Lanka; Amanyara on the Turks & Caicos Islands; Aman at Summer Palace Beijing; Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro; Aman New Delhi; Amantaka in Luang Prabang, Laos; Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah; and Amanfayun in Hangzhou, China.

The Crag Hotel — which was built in 1929 — was once owned by the Sarkies Brothers, who founded the E&O Hotel. It was later converted into a boarding school under the name Uplands School in 1955. It fulfilled this function until a sudden increase in rental forced the school to be relocated to Burmah Road in 1977. Crag Hotel had not been utilised since then.

The hotel covers an area of 7.681 acres, which encompasses a village of 22 bungalows.

The state government had issued a tender for the redevelopment of Crag Hotel on June 1, 2010 and closed on Sept 1, but was later cancelled due to financial and technical reasons, and another RFP was called on Nov 15 and closed on Feb 15 this year.

An artistic impression of a refurbished suite at the Amancrag.

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