China – World Luxury Hotel Awards

China – World Luxury Hotel Awards

The Hotelier Awards China

The rapid growth of tourism in China continues to attract people in the tourism industry from all over the world. We interviewed the finalists for the China Hotelier Awards “General Manager of the Year” category.

These GMs have a wealth of experience gained working in hotels all around the world. They now manage hotels in Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. In this piece, they offer us a peek into what it’s like to work in hospitality in China.

Andy Wang, General Manager

The Azure Qiantang, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hangzhou

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I came to Hangzhou in August 2013. The hotel was still under construction, and totally different from what you can see today.

Actually, I am originally from Hangzhou and it was a pleasure to return to the place I grew up and be part of this hotel here. I have more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry in China.

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Where is it?

The hotel is located in Shangcheng district along the Qiantang River, known for the world’s biggest and most spectacular tidal bore.

The hotel’s design incorporates blue glass representing the surging waves of the Qiantang River and it’s named after “Memories of the South”, a masterpiece written by Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi.

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Business or leisure?

Both. The Azure Qiantang is the first luxury hotel in Qiantang’s CBD. Our location is perfect for corporate clients.

We have 205 elegant guest rooms and suites, all with spectacular views of the Qiantang River. We also have a special tea blended for our hotel by famous tea master Tang Xiao Jun.

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What changes have you made since taking on the role?

The constant drive for change is one of the main factors to success in the hospitality industry. There is no doubt that taking responsibility is the basic requirement for being a good leader.

I really like to see myself as a captain who is navigating his team to an even better and more successful shore.

This needs first of all the right people on board, who are talented and motivated. Together with them there is no problem too difficult to overcome; and taking the right actions and keeping a positive attitude will in the end pave the way to success.

Bahram Sepahi, General Manager and Vice President

Four Seasons, Guangzhou

I remember being impressed at the magnificence of the tower during the construction phase. The massive surrounding development and vision of the Huacheng Square also amazed me.

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I had just arrived in Guangzhou from the city of Dubai and was used to seeing such enormous projects. It has now been nearly five and half very rewarding years that I’ve been working in Asia.

Where is it?

The Four Seasons is located at the heart of the Huacheng Square of Guangzhou’s CBD.

Business or leisure?

The hotel caters to a combination of business travellers during the week as well as a strong base of leisure guests each weekend. We also cater to a growing segment for groups in our extensive banqueting and meeting space.

 

Our hotel has a total of 344 spacious guest rooms, 42 of which are suites. We have the largest rooms in Guangzhou, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the Pearl River Delta and city.

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What changes have you made since taking on the role?

Most of the changes have been around the preferences and services for our Asian travellers.

Examples of this can be seen in our restaurants such as our Chinese breakfast buffet additional selections and customized room packages for our weekend guests.

Bob Van Den Oord, Managing Director, VP of Brands for Langham Hospitality Group 

The Langham, Hong Kong

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I’m originally from the Netherlands, but I’ve been living in Asia for about 11 years now. My first initial reaction when I arrived to The Langham, Hong Kong was the European elegance that the hotel exudes. The lobby welcomes you with high ceilings, beautiful crystal chandeliers and Service Stylists to greet you.

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Where is it?

The Langham, Hong Kong is located in the heart of Kowloon’s busiest commercial and entertainment district – Tsimshatsui. It’s near designer boutiques (such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Prada) and Harbour City, a shopping arcade with over 700 shops.

It’s also within walking distance of the Star Ferry and Victoria Harbour, Tsimshatsui MTR underground station and Kowloon–Canton Railway station.

Business or leisure?

The hotel caters to a diverse local and international clientele from business travellers to leisure guests with families. There are 498 rooms and suites, each finished with the finest fabrics and fully equipped with state-of-the-art amenities and facilities.

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china hotels

What changes have you made since taking on the role?

Under my care, one of the most significant changes was the recent completion of our USD30 million facelift.

The renovation includes 230 guest rooms and suites, a new lobby lounge, called Palm Court, as well as brining an award-winning bar concept from London to Hong Kong, known as Artesian.

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Jan B. Tibaldi, General Manager

The Puli Hotel and Spa, Shanghai

As I entered through the huge wooden doors leading into PuLi’s hotel lobby, I was taken aback by the sheer presence of calm and serenity, having just moments ago been immersed by the city’s hustle and bustle.

It was as if a huge load of hectic stress that was taken off my back instantaneously. I had just moved from Udaipur in Rajasthan (India) with my family – an idyllic country side resort on the banks of Lake Pichola. Quite a change to say the least!

 

My various postings in Asia (Thailand, Maldives, India, China) have lasted 11 years and counting.

Where is it?

The PuLi Hotel and Spa is in the heart of Shanghai’s business, shopping, sightseeing and entertainment district.

It is well located in Jing’An district and is directly linked to the Subway Lines 2 and 7, which offer easy access to the airport, train station and city centre.

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Business or leisure?

It is primarily a business hotel (90%) with the remaining 10% being leisure. There are 26 floors, 193 rooms and 36 suites. We offer 24-hour in-room dining as well as 24-hour concierge, butler service on Club floors, laundry and valet services.

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What changes have you made since taking on the role?

English communication levels throughout the hotel needed vast improving.

We established various proficiency categories for both front and back of house positions and have seen tremendous improvement over the last two years, thus enabling team members to become a lot more at ease when dealing with our English speaking clientele.

We have created a empowerment program to make our team members more responsible and being able to deliver the ‘wow’ effect to our guests in turn.

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I changed the working environment for hotel staff from autocratic to participative through implementation of empowerment and system implementations and by creating a culture of excellence and ownership, team building, but at the same time empowering team heads and line staff to a certain level.

This attitude and aptitude change throughout all ranks helped us reduce yearly staff turnover by 20% over the last two years, thus increasing service standards, productivity, led to a visible increase in guest satisfaction – which automatically resulted in increased GOP/profits.

Pierre Perusset, General Manager

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

When I first arrived and stayed at the hotel, I was amazed by its beauty—amazing interior décor, the elevation and the amazing view.

I knew at that moment I was in a very unique place on Earth. I guess I was right, as the hotel is the highest hotel in the world, with an altitude of 490 meters.

Prior to this assignment, I was the Managing Director of our two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta and our two Marriott properties.

I first came to Asia in 1990 at the Regent Hotel Hong Kong, and have stayed in this part of the world since then.. This is then over 24 years and I love to work and live in Asia.

Artesian at The Langham,

Where is it? 

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong offers direct connections to the airport in just 20 minutes and Central Hong Kong in five minutes. It’s situated on West Kowloon waterfront, a prestigious address ideal for both business and leisure travellers.

Business or leisure?

We catered for both business and leisure travellers. Occupying floors 102 to 118 of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon, the hotel is the highest in the world.

We have 312 guest rooms. The view, combined with unique interior design and personalized service from our ladies and gentlemen, makes our hotel a memorable place to stay.

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What changes have you made since taking on the role?

As the hotel had only been recently opened when I first arrived, my focus was totally on the quality of the service in order for us to deliver an experience to our guests which would not be based solely on the height of the hotel and its beauty, but rather and certainly on the efficiency, warmth and personalised service of our ladies and gentlemen.

Since then, we have constantly gained ground and further elevated our guests’ satisfaction, and have been recognized amongst the very best in the world.

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Rainer Burkle, Regional Vice President and General Manager

The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai

I arrived at a time when the hotel had just topped off with no windows yet. I remember the initial walk throughs with the interior designer and the construction team.

We had to realise immediately that the views were even more spectacular than initially imagined. While the height allows a sweeping view over the skylight of the city, it is still low and close enough to recognise details, beautifully overlooking The Bund, during days and nights.

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My initial introduction to China and Asia started in Puxi at the famous The Portman Ritz-Carlton. Before I was managing The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin and oversaw north Europe as a Vice President. Besides carrying the helmet of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, I also support the hotels in China as Regional Vice President

Where is it?

Cesar Ritz, the world known hotelier, who revolutionist the hotel business a 125 years ago, lived by the mantra “location, location, location.” So it is no surprise the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong is right in the middle of Luijiazui, the Wall Street of China.

Yet with a slight difference: The location offers much more shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities than Wall Street in New York.

Business or leisure?

We are most fortune to be both. And this suits both market segments, blurring often the actual purpose of somebody’s stay.

Business travellers who, after a long day of work take advantage of the unique feature Flair, the alfresco Rooftop Restaurant and Bar right on top of the hotel. A must see when in Shanghai.

The weekend visiter who enjoyed a relaxing treatment in China’s 2014 voted best Spa. Or a more formal dinner in Jin Xuan, our Chinese Restaurant with sweeping views over The Bund.

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The hotel has 52 Suites, 49 Club Rooms and totally 285 keys. A size which allows for the employees (we call them our Ladies and Gentlemen) to provide personalised service.

We discuss daily the principal of our purpose (serving the guest) with each other, which makes our philosophy in guest interactions so strong.

We do have actually two large suites of 420 square meters. One night is offered at a rack rate of rmb 100,000. We also have the highest alfresco restaurant in mainland China.

What changes have you made since taking on the role?

Since I was at the property from prior opening, I was able to work together with a team of exceptionally talented individuals, creating the concepts, the feels and the service delivery basics of the hotel.

Agreeably one area we did not hit the sweet point immediately after opening was Scena, our Italian Restaurant.

We went back to the interior designers and re-planned the ambiance, considering the Chinese customers’ requirement for today and the years to come.

SHK our owners, who have been tremendously supportive, reinvested under the promises that we would be able to provide a ROI (return on investment) within two years. It was actually achieved in less than 18 months. But most importantly the patrons love it and continue to support by combing back.

Sandy Murray, General Manager

DoubleTree by Hilton Beijing

I arrived in the early evening and remember being struck by the impact of the Lobby from the Lin Lounge and the candles and warm reception – it had a really nice welcoming feeling….then on further inspection I really taken away by how the owner found the best artists from around Asia to give an original contemporary feel.

The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai

I have worked in many parts of Asia from South Korea, Sri Lanka from 2001, before that I worked in Europe and the Middle East. If I knew then what I know now it would have been earlier!

I can never see myself living anywhere else but this part of the world.

Where is it?

Located between the city’s Central Office District and prestigious Financial District along the Southwest 2nd Ring Road, the hotel has an easy access to many places of interests such as Tian’anmen Square, Xi Dan Shopping Center, the red-walled Forbidden City and Imperial Palace.

Later this year will see the opening of line 7 which will be a big change for easier access to the rest of the city.

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Business or leisure?

We are an upscale hotel focusing on both business and leisure travellers. We have 540 rooms with a good mix, including 105 suites and six family suites with kitchen areas.

A unique feature of the hotel is the outdoor “Secret Garden”, which has sculptures and trees from around the world.

Another is the extensive amount of original artworks – including steel craft, calligraphy, painting as well as colored glaze, hotel is abundant with over 200 pieces original artwork created by 30 contemporary artists from Japan, Korea, Israel and China.

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What changes have you made since taking on the role?

I discuss most things using the 4P’s model:

1-People – building a positive “can do” environment to get people to trust their own instincts on all matters. My role has been to guide and build their confidence. I do this through on ongoing mentoring.

2-Product – two keys areas are:

Guest environment – from ensuring basics like maintenance are up to speed to our team member engagement is foremost of our team members minds

Activities – ensuring there is much going on to keep guest entertained, currently working on a 3 month promotion from my home town South Australia to showcase best local produce from honey to Lobster in the hotel

3-Promotion – much has done to reposition our image. Our new actives embrace our art collection and our unique features such as the extensive outdoor garden – we do this through new channels such as wechat – where I have my own account just for all team members to ensure they are as excited and aware of changes as I am!

4-Profitability – while i cannot share exact revenues I can state we are 8points up in market share against our competitive set, so the hard work is flowing to the bottom line. In addition we are rating very well as far as our customers are concerned we are in top 10 of 100 hotels in Asia Pac!

To find out the top nominees for all 15 categories visit www.hotelierawards.com.  Winners will be announced at the award ceremony on Thursday 11th December 2014 at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong.

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