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Musings with Sonia Cheng

“I’m Chinese but I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn and grow up in both cultures [East and West],”

reveals Sonia Cheng, the millenial CEO behind Asia’s staggering Rosewood Hotel Group, which owns iconic properties across the world, including The Carlyle in New York City, Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and Rosewood London. “I can think and see from both perspectives, which is invaluable when operating in a global arena.”
“This is one of the most exciting times in history to be a business leader in Asia,” Cheng adds with fervor. To not acknowledge the region’s reemergence as a global superpower would be remiss. “We are not in ‘catch up’ mode in this part of the world any longer, we are leading the way with energy, dynamism and a sense of possibility.”
Since Cheng’s family purchased Rosewood Hotel Group under their Hong Kong-based conglomerate New World Development in 2011, Cheng has been in charge of transforming a billion-dollar business with her distinctive approach, using what she calls “relationship hospitality” as guide. “We strive to create, nurture and treasure long-term relationships with those who stay with us and those who work with us,” she explains.
Her team also turns their attention towards the next wave of travelers who are shaping the ultra-luxury hospitality industry. “We call them ‘affluential explorers,’” she explains. “They want personal connections, authenticity and travel that is experiential, not superficial. All the trappings of luxury are expected along the way, but they’re looking for something deeper and more meaningful. At Rosewood we are catering to this evolved mindset.”
Personally, Cheng cites “[being] in the moment” as her philosophy to live by, although ambition, family and her kids have also played large, motivational roles. “I think I’ve always been driven…the example of my family and what they’ve achieved has been an inspiration and was ingrained in me from an early age. It’s an indefinable force, but I’m consumed by bringing my visions to life,” she says. “I also always try to enjoy every moment when I’m with my kids…some things you just don’t want to miss.”
How does she stay balanced in our increasingly fast-paced and interconnected world? “Technology is surely unavoidable these days but it is only one way of communicating. It is key for me to ensure there is personal and meaningful interaction between me and my team, my friends and my family,” she imparts. “It is also important for us, in the hotel business, to keep the human touch in mind because this is at the heart of a guest’s experience.”
Following, Cheng opens up to Tzelan about everything from what she’s reading to her home away from home…

Favorite reads:

Currently, children psychology books.

Favorite hotel in the East:

Rosewood Beijing! It’s our first Rosewood hotel in Asia (five years in the making) and really brought my future vision for the brand to life. It will always have a very special place in my heart.

Favorite hotel in the West:

Honestly, Rosewood London. I travel to the British capital a lot, and I love its dynamism. The Rosewood hotel is not only stunning, but it gives me such a sense of ease and comfort and style and charm in the midst of my frantic running around!

Favorite hotel of all time:

I love properties that have character, are intimate and really reflect the hospitality of the location. I’ve found some outstanding examples in the British and Italian countryside, and even at a secluded resort in Cambodia. But I don’t have one favorite because my opinion changes all the time.

Favorite indulgence:


Favorite virtue:


Favorite qualities in a man:

Humor, ambition, kindness.

Favorite qualities in a woman:

Intelligence and independence.

What you appreciate the most in your friends:

Loyalty and honesty.

Your main fault:

Trying to do too much and being very hard on myself.

Your idea of happiness:

Being content.

Your idea of misery:

Being cut off from all forms of communication – no phone, no mobile device, no conversation.

Where would you like to live?

Hong Kong, of course!

Favorite color:

All jewel tones. Just not pink or baby blue – I’m not a pastel kind of girl!

Your heroes in real life:

My father and grandfather. They’re very smart, humble and down-to-earth.

Your favorite food and drink:

Chinese food.

What is your present state of mind:

Pulled in different directions! There’s so much happening in our business, and my family will be expanding come December, so there’s a lot on my plate… but I love it.