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September 30, 2009

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Game's on for Hilton and its staff

THE Hilton Shanghai hotel is preparing for the ATP Masters 1000, which is being held in Shanghai from October 10-18.

In contrast to the ATP Masters that took place in the city in the past few years, this event will attract not just the top 10 players in the world, but the top 45.

It involves a bigger footprint in Shanghai as well as a larger organization for the Hilton Shanghai which hosts not only the players but also takes care of catering at the Qizhong Tennis Center.

Since it is the event's debut in Shanghai, this year is a learning experience for the hotel as well, according to Guy Hutchinson, general manager of the Hilton Shanghai.

The biggest challenge is the hotel's almost exclusive catering at the tennis center, for an expected number of 40,000 people, says Hutchinson.

At about 24 hectares, the site is larger than previous years. And the Hilton arranges the hospitality from one end to the other and everything from hotdogs to fine dining will be available.

Hutchinson explains the exercise feels like opening another hotel, since the Hilton will be fully occupied by players, as well as their entourages.

During the ATP Masters 1000, 50 percent of the more than 700 guestrooms in the hotel will be available for tennis players, their sponsors, coaches and family.

Apart from a separate breakfast room, the players prefer to mingle with other guests. With regard to security, Hutchinson says the Chinese fans are respectful and usually stay within designated areas.

The players interact with them outside the hotel, but once inside they are left alone. Since this has worked very well every year, there is little extra security.

According to Hutchinson, the players like to have a comfortable environment around them and want to make themselves at home in the hotel. That is exemplified by an example Hutchinson gives from last year.

As it was his first event as general manager of the Hilton in Shanghai, Hutchinson formally welcomed all players in front of the hotel.

Behind him, he noticed players greeting and hugging staff members they knew from previous years. The possibility that the players meet people they already know is highly likely, since 350 members of the staff have over 10 years' experience with the hotel.

At the event itself, about 1,000 people will work at the hotel and another 500 at the tennis center.

Staff from the company's other 10 sister hotels in China have been invited and the Hilton works together with schools and universities in Shanghai on the event.

"We tend not to talk about renovations but about people," he says, because Hutchinson is of the opinion that talking about the colors of curtains and carpets makes you feel like being in a furniture store instead of being in a hotel.

However, the Hilton Shanghai is in the middle of a renovation project that started in 2007, and it is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2011.

Already 50 percent of guestrooms have been completed, as well as °?- among others - the suites, executive lounge, ballroom and lobby. Also the outside of the hotel is being cleaned to brighten it up.

The panorama suites were renovated five years ago so they are ready to host this year's top tennis players.

For them, the hotel always does something extra, as for example providing towels embroided with their initials and personalizing the suites according to their nationalities.

But above all, the Hilton tries not to intrude on the players' schedules and be flexible with serving dinners. By anticipating the situation the tennis players are in, the hotel hopes to make them feel welcome and at home. As Hutchinson remarks: "It is the service that makes you like being somewhere."


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