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Relishing ups and downs

PHILIP Yu, only in his forties, was named General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou in June. He has always been younger than the managers who typically fill senior positions but it was not his extraordinary career accomplishments that brought out his sparkle during an interview with Shanghai Daily.

Instead, the Hong Kong native became most animated when talking about his less than two years' work for a supermarket in Canada, starting from the ground up, around 13 years ago, not the cushioned and assured rise of many managers. He calls his work in Canada "my greatest achievement so far."

Earlier in Hong Kong, Yu was widely admired for making it to manager for the whole food and beverage sector of a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. He was just 30 years old.

"I was not arrogant. But such achievements make one feel good about oneself," recalls Yu.

He took a few more promising positions in the hotel business before leaving for Canada in 1997, where he encountered one of his biggest challenges, finding work.

"I stayed home for a few months after my wife was promoted as VP, but I was never embarrassed or ashamed. I just followed my way and spent time rearranging the decorations at home," he recalls.

That was when he started working in the marketing section of the supermarket, from scratch. Although he had no previous experience in the field, he soon became head of the office.

"It was actually quite fun to work there, and it made me believe that as long as you work hard and know how to work it, it doesn't matter where you are," says Yu.

Yu never tried hiding this experience or the fact that he learned the hard way. Even today he enjoys touring supermarkets. He knows exactly how and why the products are arranged and presented, since he has done the job before.

In fact, Yu raised the topic of his ground-level experience "because it is exactly such experiences that make my footprint quite different from those of other hotel general managers.

"Instead of climbing up the staircases, I had lots of ups and downs in all kinds of strange positions. It has allowed me to look at the industry and my jobs from a different and helpful perspective," Yu adds.

These perspectives include actually getting close to employees and listening to them: now he does this at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou.

Yu holds monthly meetings with randomly selected employees, to listen to their opinions, often quite tedious details about their daily jobs, from wishes to change to more comfortable shoes to worries about the fragile glasses in the bar.

"These staff suggestions get executed quite fast because I want the staff to feel the same consideration that our guests receive in the hotel. That's what makes the employees serve guests sincerely from their hearts," Yu says.

He is proud of his employees' achievements and cites the example of one who visited every single bike renting station around West Lake for a guest, who had forgotten at which station she left her bike.

The city of Hangzhou provides public bike rental; people swipe a card to get a bike and swipe again to lock it and return it to any bike station. A guest had forgotten to swipe the card when she returned to the hotel and didn't remember the bike drop-off point.

He went to the hotel concierge, worried that the bike could have been stolen. An employee visited every lakeside station and finally found the bike.

"You want to treat guests as if they are guests in your home," says Yu, "and this is the kind of thing that you do for a friend, a practice we called 'authentic hospitality.'"

Yu loves walking through small streets of Hangzhou and into local markets, bookstores and small shops.

He is particularly proud of the hotel's location, "50 steps from the West Lake, and you will be in the lake on the 51st step," Yu jokes. Favorite Dish

Dongpo pork, served with chestnut pancakes, is legendary. The story goes that Su Dongpu(1037-1101), a scholar in the Northern Song Dynasty and then governor of Hangzhou, instructed that pork be prepared in a special way to reward the people he favored. The delicious dish was named in his honor and people have been enjoying it for 900 years.

Best Deals

The hotel is confident of providing its guests an unforgettable stay. It will offer very attractive packages for Mid-autumn Festival and the National Day golden holiday. Located in the heart of the city on West Lake, the hotel offers stylish accommodation, spectacular views, exciting dining and meeting experiences.

June 2010: General Manager, Hyatt Regency Hangzhou

July 2009 to May 2010: Hotel Manager, Grand Hyatt Shanghai

December 2007 to June 2009: Resident Manager, Grand Hyatt Shanghai

April 2007 to December 2007: Resident Manager, Hyatt International, Asia Pacific

March 2004 to April 2007: General Manager, Clubhouse, Hong Kong Jockey Club


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