Travel

Hue Hotel Could Be The First of the Boracay 2.0 Wave

Boracay is still Boracay, but this new hotel reimagines what else our most popular tourist destination could be.
IMAGE Instagram.com/HueBoracay
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Here’s a hotel that shouldn't make sense. First of all, the second of two Hue Hotels and Resorts is in Boracay—still the country’s top tourist destination, and whose relatively tiny 10.32sq.km. is already crowded with tourist accommodations.

It’s not a beachfront property, either. Located right at the border of Stations 2 and 3 (which they designate as "Station X"), the hotel is content to sit back from the beach, instead facing the main road. It's also unusually welcoming: If other resorts are happy to eject their guests to the beach or, in the case of the ultra-exclusive, fence them off from the rest of Boracay, Hue has a ground floor designed to give guests a reason to stay in and outsiders a reason to wander in. In the middle of the country's busiest and most popular tourist destination, it means to be a destination in itself.

And, lastly, there's a big hole right smack in the middle of the hotel. Instead of building more rooms into this prime piece of real estate, there is space, and lots of it: there is a generous swimming pool, lined with black slate to soak up the sun, a copper-topped bar off to the side, and a large indoor-as-outdoor dining area.

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It shouldn't make sense, but it's all these things that make Hue quite possibly the boldest, most interesting hotel to open in Boracay for a long time. "It may not be the most efficient type of structure, but we felt that, in Boracay especially, we need that kind of characteristic," says Dexter Lee, managing director for the new hotel brand. "We just wanted to have this oasis."


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It's a bold move for the new hoteliers in more ways than one: Dexter and his brother Dennis, who shares management duties at the company, which has traditionally been in the provincial mall business.  The 128-room Boracay property is only their second hotel (the first Hue Hotel opened just a few months ago in Puerto Princesa).

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For Boracay, the Lees chose New York-based Fil-Am architect Carlos Arnaiz, having admired his work on the "Church of 100 Walls" in Cebu. The result is a graceful, layered design that at once complements its environs and tries to reimagine it. Hue is undeniably made for the tropical beach paradise that is Boracay, but it also tries to get away from the design tropes that others fall into. 

 

Forget the white and the wicker, for example; true to its name, Hue's interiors are a riot of color. Beach furniture comes in wood and metal here, and the unapologetic use of astro-turf adds greenery and gives beachgoers a respite from the sand.

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Even the gift shop features a striking collection of souvenirs sourced from all over the country. No glued-shell kitsch here—instead you have a very carefully chosen selection of artisanal products and food that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the country, let alone on the island.

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And then there's the food. Aiming to establish Station X as a legitimate landmark, Hue has invited some of the best establishments in Boracay and Manila to set up shop within the premises. Prisma, the gorgeous hotel bar, is run by the same people behind ABV in Makati. Dining options abound, mostly courtesy of the Sunny Side Café Group, and each one somehow manages to stand out. Besides the handful of standalone restaurants downstairs, there's a food hall called Streetmarket that offers another half-dozen concepts.

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Even the details that remain in the pipeline are interesting. The hotel uses waterproof baller bands embedded with electronic chips as room keys, which is already an innovation in itself. They are currently studying how to integrate this with a payment system that will work with the restaurants downstairs for maximum convenience. 

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"Actually, hearing from the locals—even the local hotel owners—has been encouraging. They appreciate that it's set back from the [beach], they appreciate the nicely designed spaces. For us, that's mission accomplished. Hopefully everyone follows suit," says Dexter.

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For the brothers, Hue stands for what they hope Boracay will be. "Everyone was telling us, Boracay is on its way out, it's dying. But the locals themselves tell us that, no, it's not going to fall anytime soon," says Dennis. But instead of playing it safe and taking advantage of the continuing strength of Boracay as a tourist destination, they decided to place a bet on the future.

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"It's not the old Boracay, but it can be the new, nicer Boracay. We want to be the first to initiate that kind of thinking," says Dexter. "We can make Boracay great again. Just watch us."

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About The Author
Kristine Fonacier
Former editor-in-chief of Esquire Philippines
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