by Catharine Nicol | June 19, 2019
The curvy steel, glass and green West Kowloon Station is an awe-inspiring terminus for the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL). A marvel of architecture on the outside, its interiors offer multiple floors of transport facilities, restaurants and shopping with free WiFi, device charging counters and a Business Lounge.

Opened September 4, 2018, short-haul express trains whisk travellers to Shenzhen-Fujian in just 14 minutes and Guangzhou in 47 minutes, reflecting the 'PRD One-hour Living Circle', while the fastest trips from Guangzhou to Shanghai and Beijing take 7 hours and 8 hours 3 minutes respectively.  

Both the XRL and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) will "unveil a new era of MICE travel," according to John Girard, area general manager of Regal Hotels International and general manager of Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong. "The 'Bridge and Rail' provide alternative efficient travel options and facilitate frequent multi-destination travellers' needs," he says, "while offering additional benefits to planners who often request innovative itineraries for MICE groups."

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Interiors of the high-speed train.

The Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong is perfectly located to benefit from both, being attached to Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), 10 minutes by public bus to Hong Kong Port for the HZMB, and less than 30 minutes by Airport Express to West Kowloon Station for the XRL.

As a result, demand for rooms and MICE packages from China is high and trending upward. Girard added, "Hong Kong benefits from better connectivity to the Greater Bay Area and other parts of the Mainland China and we have received positive and encouraging feedback from MICE agents and meeting groups, as well as trade representatives from the Greater Bay Area and key cities especially in the southern part of Mainland China, due to more synergies and travel flexibility."

"The XRL makes it a great time to open," says The St Regis Hong Kong general manager Derek Flint, who will be launching the luxury property in April. "China will be our biggest market and we are actively going after that, so anything that can bring the Chinese guest over will help. There is a lot of development where we are, and the new [Central - Wan Chai Bypass] tunnel will also benefit us as it offers easier access from the airport."

The infrastructure will also help Hong Kong's cruise industry, fuelling the increasingly popular rail-cruise segment, which is strongly supported by Hong Kong Tourism Board via incentives and rebates. "The high speed rail puts Hong Kong to within a radius of millions, which is incredible and gives a whole new opportunity to access those markets," says Thatcher Brown, president of Dream Cruises and managing director of Crystal Cruises Asia.