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Langham’s accidental orientalism

There are some strange things happening with Langham Hotels in Hong Kong at the moment, which I think are in danger of insulting not only Hong Kongers, but cultural commentators and even the local tourism board.

For the past month or so Langham has been releasing a series of online videos, under the tagline of ‘Visiting Hong Kong is a Big Deal’.

Langham’s argument is that traveling today can be a big deal, but thankfully Langham Place and the Eaton Hotel in Kowloon are here to assist you with this “Big Deal” solution.

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To communicate this, Langham invented a series of bizarre situations which tourists in Hong Kong may experience. The videos all contain a similar theme.

Rude and frustrated travelers looking to escape a world of madness you find around Hong Kong streets for the safety net of Langham Hotels, where they can then have a true oriental experience, or Langham’s version of it.

I find it strange that Langham is peddling these romanticised images of Asia and Asians. Who does that these days?

In my two tiny years of living in Hong Kong, I have never once experienced anything near to what Langham is trying to communicate, and I’m an adventurous person. Hong Kong was under British rule for 156 years, come on…

You can see all three videos here, but the second is arguably the worst. (Update links have all been removed)

It features a clearly distressed white woman in search of somewhere to eat. After finding a street stall (a truly unique experience in Hong Kong) she orders chicken with rice by doing some weird chicken dance, only to discover that a chicken foot in congee is served. She then rushes back to the Eaton Hotel for a true Asian meal of… wait for it… a spring roll.

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If you have a look at Langham’s price list you can clearly see its prices are way more expensive to what you’ll pay at a street stall and I’ll bet you $100 bucks that the street stalls are serving up a lot better chow than Langham.

The idea for the viral marketing exercise was launched by Prosperity Research, I wonder how extensively researched this idea was?

Already online conversations starting to take place about Langham Hotel are taking a turn for the worst. This headline from The Dark Side really takes the cake: “Avoid dirty locals: Stay at a Langham Hotel”.

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The runaway train that is the online conversation can have a big impact in how opinions about brands are shaped.

With comments like this already doing to rounds on Twitter. Langham better wise up.

“Langham Place: Where white people go to pretend they’re not surrounded by filthy Chinese.”

“WTF Langham Hotels, are you actually trying to DEMOTE HK? Please enlighten me.”

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