Independent Minds: Eugene & Rina Tan, The Edison George Town

Husband and wife Eugene and Rina Tan are on a mission to “bring back the romance” of travel, and it’s impossible not to be enamoured with the colonial charm of their lovingly restored mansion which presides over historical George Town.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, George Town is built upon 500 years of trading – and The Edison George Town is very much a part of this vibrant history. Located on one of the island’s earliest streets where the affluent made their homes, the mansion was originally commissioned and built in 1906 as a private residence. Only becoming a hotel after the Second World War, during which the Japanese used the building as their administrative centre, it was not until 2014 that The Edison’s true transformation began into the architectural and cultural vision it is today.

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as an hotel owner mean to you?

Being an independently minded hotelier permits us the freedom to embrace the role of the disruptor, as in disrupting the way we ‘sell’ and ‘pitch’ hospitality – the personal touch, the minute details, the finer elements, the quality, and the soul of the stay experience. All of this forms our unique brand story and our distinct perspective on hospitality. It adds to our commitment to bringing back the romance of a hotel stay; the creation of authentic local experiences is what we are eager to share when guests stay with us to experience the exceptional. Having a personality is what we believe differentiates us from the big flagged chain hotels.

What was the inspiration behind the hotel, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

This journey was a result of our decision to co-develop the brand – The Edison Hotels with The Edison George Town, Penang as the flagship hotel, and is a testament to the vision of influencing the future of Penang. The hope is that we are able to curate bespoke styles, and with this shape an emotional connection with guests over other productions which are designed to hype. The catalyst was the desire to disrupt the way hospitality was being ‘sold’ to guests. Hospitality by definition is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, which we term as bringing back the romance of a hotel stay experience and that’s what both our team and we strive daily to offer to all our guests. Penang being our home with her many tourism related appeals and attractions was a natural choice for the beginnings of our brand – The Edison Hotels.

How do you think your hotel stands apart from other boutique hotels?

The passion to restore and rehabilitate began in 2014, some 108 years after the building was built. Over two years later, on the 16th July 2016, we opened the doors to our first guests as The Edison George Town, Penang. The rest, as they say, is history. Now a stunningly restored mansion, we have since gone on to proudly redefine Penang’s
hospitality offerings, channeling our brand pillars through the award winning – The Edison Experience.

Through captivating story-telling, stylish and detailed interior designs, enchanting history, and a personalised guest experience, we bring our guests back to a time of elegance where they feel right at home from the moment they walk through our main gates. It’s our relentless pursuit of the attention to detail which sets us apart. As an example, in our courtyard we uncovered several beautiful cast iron colonnades which had been made in a Scottish foundry over a century ago. Bringing them back to their former glory was a labour of love and patience, and it’s that attention to detail which we want our guests to experience and which we confidently feel that most have this experience.

If you only had 24 hours to get a taste for your hotel experience, what would you recommend a guest must do?

Penang! Penang! Penang! In 24 hours. Reminisce bygone days and discover how life was a century ago, and at the same time explore and indulge the much-touted unique multicultural street food scene around the neighbourhood of the hotel. The best dish is literally found on the street – as in street food vendors. All the hawkers are culinary experts in their own rights. You have Penang Char Koay Teow, Assam Laksa and many more so it’s difficult to decide on the best, they will all take you to food heaven!

In addition, the following is our curated shortlist on getting to know Penang better:

  • Hin Bus Depot for their weekly Sunday Arts & Crafts market.
  • A spot of browsing and shopping for fine crafted jewellery at Nam Loong Jewellers.
  • Being amongst fascinating fused artworks in nature at Art & Garden by Fuan Wong.
  • Exploring and thumbing through locally published books in one of the many book shops within George Town.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

Simplicity, where nothing is impossible, and where every guest’s request is of importance.