The Upper House GM Shares Secrets to Seamless Travel
Hotelier extraordinaire Kristina Snaith-Lense knows a thing or two about traveling in style. As general manager of The Upper House Hong Kong, recently named number four in the World’s 50 Best Hotels Awards, Kristina is your quintessential “Third Culture kid.” The ever-glamorous powerhouse mother of three (all under 5) was born in White Plains, New York to a British father and an Indian mother. Raised in Hong Kong, she attended boarding school in the UK, and received degrees from Bristol University and École Hôtelière de Lausanne, springboarding her kaleidoscopic cultural outlook and passion for hospitality.
What is the place that means the most to you?
Hong Kong is my favorite city in the world without a doubt. St. John’s Church on Garden Road is an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. It holds a special place in my heart; my three sons were baptized there, my husband and I had our marriage blessing there, and my paternal grandparents were also married there.
As someone who travels a lot, what are some things you do to make it as seamless as possible?
Advance planning is my preference! We book our flights 6+ months out for family trips, with restaurants and any day activities ideally pre-booked. I start the packing process at least one week in advance. For work trips, day and night outfits are planned by day with shoes and accessories with two extra outfits for emergencies! I have a full medicine bag of supplements and natural remedies for the children and us. We take extra vitamin C on the flight and swear by Quicksilver Scientific Immune Charge throat spray. When traveling as a family, we always take a night flight for long-haul to ensure maximum sleep potential, ideally taking off between 9-11 pm and everyone in their pjs before we leave the house, and me in my compression socks (massive help if you are prone to swelling)! Ideally leaving the house at least 3 hours prior to flight departure; I hate feeling rushed or running late. Once we arrive, we unpack totally with kids first and try as much as possible to keep to the timing of the home routine. As a type A “controller,” I really need to manage my own expectations to try to be as fluid as possible, especially whilst traveling as a gang of 5+. It’s an amazing thing to see the world through the eyes of your children; it makes me far more appreciative of being present, and not sweating too much if things don’t go to plan!
What is one travel indulgence that you refuse to give up?
I have recently got my Silver Status back with Cathay, so I’m very happy to be able to enjoy the best Dan Dan noodles again before flying!
Do you have a strategy to fit everything in a carry-on?
I am a terrible packer, more is more, so this is absolutely not possible! My husband grimaces every time the luggage comes out!
The Upper House just won number 4 in the World’s 50 Best Hotels Awards; what do you think sets the hotel apart?
We are enormously grateful and feel truly honored to be included in this fantastic list of hotels. Having two Hong Kong hotels in the top five is incredible and such an incredible achievement for the hospitality industry of Hong Kong collectively.
Our people are at the heart and soul of our House, of what we do, and the reason why we are “Houses not Hotels.” Spending time with our teams is absolutely the best part of what I get to do; they are wonderful people who embrace and celebrate that every day and every guest is different. Hand on heart, I believe in the people culture of Swire Hotels; it is truly special, built upon the purpose of ‘thinking differently’ in all that we do, including hiring. For our front-line team members, what is most important to us is a high level of EQ – someone who displays empathy and derives energy in connecting with people.
The Human Touch
What is something that you’ve found makes the biggest difference with your guests?
The human touch. Taking the time to say hello in person, being visible in our guest areas, having a coffee or meal together to really connect person to person. Guests expect more personalized services, which are ingrained in The Upper House brand DNA: celebrating the authentic, unscripted, and unforgettable experiences that truly set us apart. Ensuring our guests feel at home with us remains at the heart of what we do, and every detail has been carefully designed with this in mind. Our House team enjoys nothing more than curating one-of-a-kind experiences tailored to specific guest interests. We want them to fall in love with the side of Hong Kong that most resonates with them. We hope to create beautiful memories so guests have a story to tell of their stay with us.
With such a people-facing role, what do you like to do to wind down and take a moment for yourself?
Apart from my morning exercise routine, I find more spiritual practices work well for me and are very much engrained in my habits. These include regular crystal sound healing, meditation, and reiki with Stephen and Pervin Clasper at Shakti Healing Circle, where I have been going for over 13 years. I am trying to get better at breathing and recently met an incredible teacher in Anastasia Williams. Our in-house wellness residencies have really flourished over the last few years, making these experiences so much easier to dip in and out of during my working day. My personal interest in holistic health made this a real passion project, and it was a privilege to partner with some of the city’s most iconic names in wellness, such as Lindsay Jang, Joyce Tsang and Rinat Perlman.
Recs in Hong Kong and Abroad
What is a must-see in Hong Kong for those who visit?
In nature, Siu Ma Shan hiking trail including a stunning waterfall climb experience. In town, M+, a world-class museum and destination for culture in Hong Kong.
Best island or resort destination?
Menorca in the Balearic Islands is a slice of heaven and so unspoiled by tourism. Amazing beaches and water. Also, the Hauser & Wirth outpost at the historic Illa del Rei is absolutely magnificent. It’s such a unique art and cultural experience.
Best shopping destination?
Seoul! The fashion, the skincare, and great food on-the-go. You can also shop 24 hours a day!
What destination do you think everyone should visit?
Barcelona; one of my all-time favorite European cities where I lived in my twenties. The food, the culture, the people, and the climate are just incredible and the city is just so full of life that you never want to go home.
What destinations are on your bucket list?
New Zealand and Margaret River is on the list for next year with the family. I’d also love to do a solo trip with my husband, through India at some point.