History of The Jesselton Hotel

Ramadan 2024

Built in 1954, the Jesselton Hotel boasts a rich history as it is Kota Kinabalu city’s first hotel built after the Second World War (WWII).

Before WWII, the name Jesselton Hotel was referred to as the town’s quaint timber and tin roofed Government Rest House, located behind the city’s present Kota Kinabalu Police Station.

After the war, there was total devastation which befallen Jesselton town, which Sir Herbert Ralph Hone, the Colonial Governor of Jesselton was instrumental in the rebuilding Jesselton. He encouraged a consortium of Chinese Hong Kong businessmen to invest and build Jesselton town’s first modern post-war hotel which was completed in 1954 on what was then Jesselton town’s 69 Bond Street.

The consortium owners engaged architects, contractors, builders and craftsmen from Hong Kong to construct one of the city’s first modern concrete building, emulating a Hong Kong 1940’s architecture.

In 1971, the hotel property and business was sold to a consortium of timber investors from Sandakan headed by Datuk Khoo Siak Chew. The new owners contracted the operations management of Jesselton Hotel to Datuk Wong Tze Fatt, who was then well known as an entrepreneur and founder of S.E. Asia’s Gardenia Bread Brand.

In 1978, Datuk Wong Tze Fatt bought the entire hotel business including its property. In 1989, Datuk Wong engaged WAY Chartered Architects to undertake a total renovation to create its present iconic colonial façade, adding a lift and an additional floor for guestrooms. It was then that the Jesselton Hotel received a facelift, spruced up with contemporary interiors and modern facilities.

Datuk Wong Tze Fatt fulfilled a childhood dream to not only become an entrepreneur but to own a hotel. It was not just any hotel but became an iconic building at the heart of Kota Kinabalu. With the help of his maiden manager Mr George Lemonwatt, a British expatriate working at the time for the Swire Group in Hong Kong, Datuk Wong Tze Fatt and George personally inculcated to its hotel staff, the inn-keeping and hospitality traditions. The hotel’s special attention given to its guests is recognized by her signature welcome to visitors by the doorman donned in a colonial uniform complete with a tropical cork sun hat, an attire that represents the original colonial elegance and charm of a bygone era.

Many famous world celebrities have visited the Jesselton Hotel, including the British aristocrat Lady Edwina Mountbatten during her reception that was held by the 20th Governor Turnbull; and boxer Mohammad Ali in which he fought Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur on the 30th June 1975 and won on unanimous decision and came through Jesselton on the way to Manila.


Dear Valued Guest,

We hope this message finds you well.

We are thrilled to announce that The Jesselton Hotel will be embarking on a guest room, lobby (partially), guest washroom and exterior building refurbishment project from May 20th to September 30th, 2024.

The refurbishment will take place daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, aimed at enhancing your future stay experience.

While these enhancements are underway, please note that the hotel will remain operational. However, it's possible that guests may experience some noise disturbances during daytime hours.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding and patience during this time. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Thank you for your continued support and loyalty to The Jesselton Hotel. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to our team.

Warm regards,
The Management