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December 24, 2009

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Radisson Pudong for 'living art'

EDGY black-and-red decor with thought-provoking sculptures and artworks greet guests at the Radisson Pudong Century Park.

A gigantic gold lock has been mounted to the rear, red wall to resemble the padlock of an old Chinese chest. Is it a gallery or hotel? One ponders. The answer - Radisson Pudong is "the only living art hotel in China," claims General Manager Gerhard R. Fasching.

The hotel is like a permanent art exhibition, showcasing up and coming Chinese contemporary artists.

The art changes around three or four times a year, giving regular guests a fresh look with each stay.

"Being an art-and-design hotel is not boring - it gives the guest a feeling of going forward. It takes people out of the recession depression," says Austrian-born Fasching.

The recession did affect the hotel, with occupancy dropping 12 percent, as many businesses cut out one overnight stay, he says.

No redundancies were reported and all full-time staff retained their jobs.

"2009 was a tough year, but we were happy to be understaffed," says Fasching.

The Radisson Pudong has had a problem with staffing for the past three years, or more to the point, getting skilled, quality staff.

"Many other industries are expanding and new talent gets scooped up by others," says Fasching.

He says the staffing problems are part of a larger social issue because many Chinese believe only young people should work in hotels, jobs considered low-status.

But Fasching would happily employ older people because they have the experience and maturity.

He says staffing the hotel is about finding the right people for the right job - take the concierge for example.

These people are the first to greet the guests so they need to be outgoing, caring and able to remember people's names, says Fasching.

"The first touch is the most important," he says.

And top service will be in more demand than ever when an expected 70 million visitors descend on Shanghai during next year's six-month World Expo.

In hotel talk that means around US$10 million room nights will be needed.

Fasching says it's an exciting time, but hoteliers shouldn't go overboard.

"Every responsible general manager understands it's about building the city and not being greedy," he says.

Fasching says hotels around the city have agreed to a fixed pricing structure.

Living in 21st century China is exciting, says the general manager who expects Radisson to contribute to people's lives.

As he puts it: "We see ourselves as the glue that brings business people together, so they can be comfortable, and can concentrate."


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