Homecomings: The Chairman
THE CHAIRMAN: ERIC CHUNG (BPD(Arch) 2003, BArch (2005)
Tourism is family business for Eric Chung, the Shanghai based chairman of the hotel and resort company Regalia Group.
“My family has always loved travelling,” says Chung, who grew up in countries across south-east Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. “We were all very separated in different countries. But holidays and resorts were where we would get together. It still is.”
Chung’s mother, Amy Poon, founded Regalia as a real estate development firm and still acts as its president. But in Chung’s hands, business has expanded to include a luxury range of hotels, resorts, restaurants and adventure parks across China.
Chung says his lifelong enthusiasm for travel inspires him to create tourism experiences for the whole family. “That’s what really drives me,” says Chung, “To know that I am able to develop something that many families can enjoy the same way I do.”
But developing hotels and tourism parks across China opened his eyes to the poverty and lack of education available to people living in large swathes of the country. Regalia builds most of its resorts in rural areas (pictured), employing mostly local families as employees.
“I got to know a lot of the families that we hired and learnt their kids didn’t go to school. They didn’t have proper facilities – desks or paper, for example – not to mention a computer. That really sparked me to try to help them.”
Chung started donating books and computers to local schools, even asking some of his staff to teach local children part-time. Today, Regalia runs educational programs for rural employees to provide them with opportunities beyond farming, the most common profession in China’s rural communities.
The company has since built a campus for students in Suqian, near Nanjing, and raises funds every year for Teach for China, which brings teachers from all over the world to rural China.
Chung’s interest in property started at a young age, when his love of drawing was encouraged by an uncle who worked as an architect in Hong Kong.
“I spent a lot of summers hanging out in his office,” he adds. “So the design and architecture environment has always been very familiar to me.”
The youngest of four children, Chung followed his siblings to Melbourne University for a Bachelor of Architecture. It was there that he developed his passion, with inspiration from the “grand” architecture of the University’s Parkville campus, as well as the cultural and architectural diversity of Melbourne itself.
“In Melbourne, it’s all about mixing old and new. You have these old Victorian buildings next to new funky futuristic buildings,” Chung says. “It was very inspiring.”
After working for several years as an architect in Melbourne and Hong Kong, Chung moved to Shanghai to join Regalia Group as chairman and run its burgeoning tourism and hospitality businesses. He started relatively small, building family-friendly resorts, and then started to think bigger.
Regalia Group began building what Chung calls “tourism destinations”, town-sized holiday villages for whole families, known by the brand name Andaman.
Regalia also build huge adventure parks with mountain biking, hiking and other outdoor activities for the family. Chung says he is inspired by his family, aiming to create places they can enjoy together.
“I developed a lot of these resorts with my own needs in mind,” says Chung, who is married to prominent Chinese fashion designer Lulu Ren and has two children. “When I got married I also wanted to take my wife and my in-laws to resorts where we could spend more time together.”
By Kate Stanton.
Read all of our Homecomings stories here.