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July 9, 2020

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Jing An Shangri-La GM focuses on tailored, dependable hospitality

EVERY other morning, Briton Nicholas Smith leaves his home in Jinqiao, Pudong New Area, jumps on his bike to get to the ferry station. There he boards a ferry to cross Huangpu River, to the Puxi side of the city, and rides to Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai, a luxury five-star hotel in the heart of Jing’an District, which has been under his authority for over a year.

The Jing An Shangri-La general manager considers the trip, taking anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour, an invigorating way to kickstart his day.

“I have great fun coming to work and I use that as a vehicle to get to know the area,” said Smith, who took the helm of the 508-room property in June 2019.

“My geography on Puxi is actually great since I always try to come a different way.

“Shanghai is ever evolving and as a city, it’s second to none. It’s super fun to explore how the city has developed in small eateries, small restaurants and cafes. And the hotel itself has gained plenty of competition as we are now surrounded by new businesses.”

For veteran hoteliers like Smith, who has had professional stints in London, Boston, Dubai, Turkey, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, with renowned hospitality brands such as Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental, a competitive environment is healthy for business as it drives a hotel to sharpen its edge and be more focused to attract guests.

“The way we look after our guests, and in the products we offer, is to try new things because I don’t think you can stand still for too long in Shanghai as most people rush past you,” Smith said.

On the food and beverage side, for instance, the hotel has new Japanese and Mediterranean chefs coming to two of its five restaurants, bringing brand new ideas, concepts and menus to the market.

Well integrated into Jing An Kerry Center, a mixed-use landmark development, with a heart-of-the-city location comprising retail, office and residential facilities, the hotel is also working on dining concepts with high-end brands in collaboration with the shopping mall.

The two-story glasshouse-style Calypso Restaurant unveils its new a la carte menu this season, all crafted by newly appointed Chef de Cuisine, Davide Mastrangeli.

The hotel also launches the Dance in Calypso Crossover Afternoon Tea, in collaboration with the English fragrance brand Miller Harris.

Inspired by the brand’s latest fragrance DANCE, the hotel pastry team has created a selection of exquisite creations using yellow as the theme color and ingredients, which are also found in perfumed notes, such as fennel, mint, lime, bergamot, berries and so on.

The hotel is also trying a new promotion mode. It promoted signature dishes presented by its restaurants via live streaming during its 7th anniversary celebration.

“The trend that one size fits all has gone and it has to be curated to be tailored to a group of individuals for a short period of time,” Smith said.

“For the young community of these days, it has to be Instagramable, WeChatable and there has to be a certain product they can present.”

While constantly evolving, the warm sense of family, delivered to customers through personalized Asian hospitality by dedicated staff, is one thing that will never change at the Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai.

“Ultimately one of the things that we all pride ourselves in is that people know that they can always come back to Shangri-La,” said the general manager, who has been a member of the Shangri-La family for over ten years.

“They know that we have very solid products and services that they can completely rely on, just like a comfortable pair of shoes.

“We have a return rate of nearly 50 percent at our Horizon Club, and from my perspective, that’s very much the success of the Shangri-La brand and the success of this property.”

Getting a first glimpse of the industry at the age of 16 while working in a local restaurant for pocket money, Smith’s love for hospitality grew quickly.

He gained experience in various aspects of hotel management, including food and beverage, event sales and banquet operations, before getting promoted to his first general manager job about six years ago.

“One thing about hospitality that is so fantastic is that human beings are all different. I love standing in the lobby of my hotel, just like I used to love standing in a restaurant at the age of 16 serving people burgers and fries,” the general manager said.

“As a GM, I like to motivate and drive my team, and have fun with my team and at the same time, to really make great things happen.”

A passionate hotelier aside, Smith is an avid outdoor enthusiast and a cycling aficionado, who typically rides 200 to 300 kilometers per week, and a fervent supporter of outreach initiatives. Smith was the initiator and one of six dedicated riders in “Ride for Hope,” a Shangri-La sponsored charity cycling campaign first held in 2013.

Then the resident manager of Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen, Smith spearheaded the charity bike ride from Shenzhen to Shanghai.

The three-week, 2,500-kilometer trip, accomplished with the joint effort of 11 Shangri-La properties in south and east China, ended up with over 400,000 yuan (US$58,161) raised along the way to help the impoverished community in southern China.


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