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March 19, 2018

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Leading China’s push to be a MICE powerhouse

Q: How would you assess China’s MICE market? What about the performance of your property?

Gregor Wateler: Shanghai is the economic center and the most dynamic city in China. Therefore, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts has three properties in Shanghai — Pudong Shangri-La, JingAn Shangri-La and Kerry Hotel Pudong, all of which have extensive meeting facilities for the MICE market.

Ideally situated in the heart of the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, a major financial and banking center in China, Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai has been renowned for its unparalleled location, luxurious facilities and authentic Asian hospitality since it opened in 1998.

As the flagship Shangri-La Hotel, Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai has gained a well-established reputation in the market.

The MICE segment performed well in 2017. Our property boasts superb facilities led by two pillar-free ballrooms with a capacity to accommodate 1,500 and 1,700 guests respectively. Also, the hotel boasts spacious, well-appointed rooms and suites with views overlooking the historic Bund and the mighty Huangpu River, as well as that of the futuristic Pudong financial district cityscape.

Peter Zaunmayr: China is now one of the most popular destinations for MICE business, especially in the first and second-tier cities as well as resort locations which have over the last few years set up the massive infrastructure needed to host large multinational and corporate MICE events.

The QUBE Hotel Shanghai Pudong is strategically located to either host individual MICE events, with close to 300 guest rooms, a 700-square-meter ballroom and seven meeting rooms, or be part of larger corporate MICE events. Our proximity to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the Shanghai Disney Resort gives us the opportunity to not only host grand meeting events, but we also offer transportation convenience and the all important leisure components necessary for any successful event.

Chris Tsoi: China’s MICE market will definitely keep growing and China will too as a destination for the global market.

We anticipate more meetings and events happening, no matter whether in first, second or third-tier cities. There are many convention centers, hotels and other venues being built to keep up with the growing demand for domestic and international meetings in China. However, there is also significant room for growth compared with those more mature MICE markets in Western countries. As a newly opened hotel, our MICE business is also ramping up. Given the prime location, cutting-edge facilities and renowned St Regis brand services, we have achieved our market share target since opening.

Q: More and more hotels are trying to provide exceptional service and create a memorable brand experience to pamper their guests and distinguish themselves from the competition. What’s the strength of your brand and how do you differentiate yourself?

Wateler: Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai has total 951 keys in both towers — the River Wing and the Grand Tower. Guests staying in the towers enjoy stunning views of the city’s historic Bund, the Huangpu River and the fast-evolving skyline of Pudong. The unique location makes Pudong Shangri-La different from our competitors. Apart from that, with over 6,500 square meters of versatile indoor and outdoor event spaces, Pudong Shangri-La is one of the largest hotel banquet and meeting venues in Shanghai. Our five core service values of “respect, humility, courtesy, helpfulness and sincerity” are always a priority and have helped extend our success by creating family and home feel experiences for guests. Also the hotel received an outside catering license issued by the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration in the summer of 2017, which will help to facilitate the growth in the outside catering sector.

Zaunmayr: The QUBE Hotel brand, being part of Greenland International Hotels Group, is the first Chinese hospitality company to be truly international. Our strength is the understanding of local culture and service requirements which are imperative when hosting large events. We understand and provide the cosmopolitan aspect of being international, while at the same time our heritage remains proudly Chinese. In 2017, The QUBE Hotel Shanghai Pudong received the distinguished Shanghai Daily IDEAL Award for “Best MICE Hotel, Shanghai.”

Tsoi: As a hallmark of the St Regis brand from the beginning, our butler service is at the heart of everything we do. This program has been further enhanced at The St Regis Shanghai Jingan — we have implemented the Event Butler service team. This team has plenty of experience in operational hospitality roles as well as event planning. They look after every single detail of the customer event in the hotel, from room arrangement to menu design; from setup logistics to bill settlement. We provide an experience to remember for our MICE clients, instead of just a meeting package. Apart from that, we also provide unique themed refreshment breaks such as the Bloody Mary theme, or the Shanghai locally inspired snacks theme — those coffee breaks are also very popular amongst our customers.

Q: What do you think the Internet-plus economy will bring to the hospitality industry? Do you use any social media to approach your guests?

Wateler: We are looking at some new enhancements as the behavior and demands of travelers are changing. Therefore, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts launched its new mobile app in January this year, which makes guests’ check-in and check-out procedures more efficient. Besides, we have our virtual reality version of the hotel’s facilities and meeting spaces particularly for MICE guests. Social media as one communications platform plays an important role nowadays. We also keep updating our latest promotions to our guests and enhancing guest interaction as well as receiving guests’ feedback.

Zaunmayr: China has embraced the digital age with open arms and, along with some other countries in the region, we lead the world in digital connectivity for the masses. There are a multitude of online platforms now, especially here in China, whereby everything from a single meal to an entire corporate event can be accomplished without ever having to speak to anyone.

As a renowned hospitality company we must be careful to choose the platforms that keep the connectivity with the customer at a personal level, whether it be to reserve a lunch with partners at our Chinese restaurant, plan a wedding or event, or simply to reserve a room.

Tsoi: The hospitality industry has gone through tremendous changes over the last decade as digitalization has emerged as a key performance indicator for all hotels. At our hotel, we have implemented mobile check-in which conveniently helps the check-in process. We also leverage social media and iWoM to spread hotel happenings and promotions, to approach our guests through a more cost-effective and efficient way.

Q: The general manager is the person in charge of providing strategic direction for the hotel and overseeing daily operations. What do you think is the most important trait or skill? Could you give us an example of the most cheerful or stressful situation you have experienced?

Wateler: As a general manager, the most important skill is how to guide and lead your team to gain more business. To motivate everyone on the team with passion, creativity and move forward together.

Zaunmayr: It is the responsibility of the general manager to place customers’ expectations first and to ensure business expectations are achieved. In order to achieve these, the general manager must be surrounded by experienced professionals who have the same objectives and determination. The general manager must listen, while at the same time coach to achieve the desired objectives.

The hospitality industry is a constant roller-coaster of emotions. Within one day you can experience many emotions several times, but that is part of the job. I would say that the most stressful situations are the ones which can have the most cheerful outcome as the more effort exerted, the higher the achievement. Among the most memorable of experiences for me would have to be the hosting of celebrities and dignitaries as this requires extensive preparation, but the reward of hosting them successfully is extremely gratifying.

Tsoi: This is a “big” question. To me, I think most important character a qualified GM should have is caring. We care about our guests, our associates and our business. We have strong passion of what we are doing. “Putting people first” is the key philosophy. For me, the most cheerful thing is to see our contribution to society. We give our love and care to those who need help. “Spirit to serve” as Marriott’s core value and heritage make us who we are and what we are proud of. Apart from that, I’m also very happy to see our staff grow and succeed, that makes me feel achievement too.


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