A former investment banker, Sonia Cheng took the helm of the Rosewood Hotel Group in 2011, after her family’s Hong Kong-based New World Development Corporation acquired the brand. She has since transformed Rosewood into one of the world’s leading luxury hotel brands, with 23 properties (she added five in 2017 year alone) and 16 more in the pipeline.
Where other large, high-end hotel companies emphasize consistency and tradition, Cheng is growing Rosewood by pushing boundaries: She added tented suites to a new resort in Laos, serves chic street food in the signature restaurant of her Beijing hotel, and turned the London property’s once-stuffy bar into a speakeasy that’s a local haunt.
The ad campaign for the Hôtel de Crillon, a landmark Parisian hotel that underwent a multi-hundred-million-dollar renovation last year, featured fashion designer and Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing lounging rakishly on a staircase with several of his friends. “We don’t have a formula,” Cheng says, a sensibility that resonates with independent-minded travelers (especially affluent millennials) and developers alike, who are increasingly selecting Rosewood for prominent real-estate projects. (Rosewood was recently tapped to open in the former U.S. embassy in London.)
Cheng is now planning to break the mold for business hotels with a brand called Khos, which will debut in Asia in 2018.