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The Peninsula's top man

WHEN The Peninsula Shanghai opened its doors late last year, it shouldered both the weight of history and high expectations, and it has been up to its General Manager Paul Tchen to chart its future in the town's increasingly competitive five-star hotel market.

The Peninsula Shanghai marks a return by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd to the city where it operated four landmark hotels - The Kalee, Majestic, Palace and Astor House - in the first half of last century.

Tchen, who was appointed in July 2008, says the iconic new 235-room hotel on the Bund aims to recreate the experience of the grand hotels of yesteryear, with luxury and service the hallmark of the new Peninsula, the group's ninth prestigious hotel.

"If you look back at the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai was a very glamorous place and was very full of life and living well," Tchen says.

"It was important for us to bring back the glamor of Shanghai and the glamor of the grand hotels because Shanghai had some of the most beautiful grand hotels in the world."

In a teeming city like Shanghai, Tchen says "space is luxury" - and points to the design of the building with its spacious reception and wide corridors and expansive ballroom that can cater for up to 450 guests for a banquet or up to 1,000 for a cocktail reception.

But while the new hotel offers great new facilities including a newly opened shopping arcade with top-end luxury brands, it is focused on providing the unique level of service guests expect from Asia's oldest hotel group.

"Physically, it's a very beautiful product, but what makes our hotel very different are the people who work here and we work very hard to foster the spirit of approachable luxury," he says.

"Luxury is about feeling good and enjoying nicer things, luxury is about making someone feel good. You can be genuinely friendly and still provide luxury, you don't have to be stuck up or stiff."

The hotel has brought back some famous traditions, with afternoon tea, an institution in Hong Kong, also proving a hit in Shanghai.

In keeping with its rich history, The Peninsula also launched popular Saturday Afternoon Tea Dances on the first Saturday of every month, reviving a tradition that in its heyday was one of the main events on Shanghai's social calendar.

The hotel has five restaurants and bars, with signature restaurants, Sir Elly's and Yi Long Court, featuring two world-class chefs.

Michelin-star recipient Tang Chi Keung showcases the best of Cantonese cuisine at Yi Long Court, while acclaimed French chef Arnaud Berthelier brings his exceptional brand of modern European cuisine with French influences to the rooftop Sir Elly's Restaurant, Bar and Terrace. The terrace, with stunning views over the Huangpu River and Pudong and full lounge seating, has a relaxed atmosphere making this one of the most popular and stylish places to enjoy a drink this summer.

"Luxury hotels are like fantasies: you enter, you escape and you go home afterwards," Tchen explains. 1991: Joins The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd at The Peninsula Beverley Hills

1996: Awarded the prestigious "Young Hotelier of the World Award" in Mexico City by the International Hotel Association and Hotels Magazine.

2000: Since 2000 has been a member of the board of directors of KELY Support Group, a charity assisting young people in Hong Kong.

2007: General Manager, Operations Planning and Support, responsible for new Peninsula hotels in Tokyo and Shanghai.

July 2008: Appointed General Manager of The Peninsula Shanghai.

Best Deals

One of our best deals is definitely the Sir Elly's lunch. You basically get a choice of four appetizers: we give you a tray and you can taste all of them. You then get a choice of six main courses and then get to try three desserts, all for just 280 yuan (US$41) plus a 15-percent service charge. Favorite Dish It is very hard to pick a favorite dish because all our chefs do a wonderful job but I do love the Maine lobster dish Arnaud Berthelier does, and in our Cantonese restaurant Chef Tang Chi Keung does an amazing coddled sliced Dalian beef served with soy sauce. It is the one dish I have to have every time I am in that restaurant. It is very unusual to have beef in a Cantonese restaurant but it is wonderful. Overlooked Perks Guests staying in The Peninsula Shanghai can also take advantage of a range of facilities and services but among the lesser known things that General Manager Paul Tchen says are often overlooked are the international radio in every room. Guests can listen to a radio station anywhere in the world in their room.

Guests can also enjoy one of Shanghai's most efficient laundry services.

"Guests can have their laundry done in less than six hours, so they can give us something at 1am and it will back to them before 7am," Tchen says. Guests looking for that extra level of comfort can also control the humidity in their rooms and can utilize full blackout curtains to sleep at any hour of the day.

"We have a lot of singers and entertainers staying in the hotel and they come in and need to sleep and rest before a concert or performance, and being able to get a good sleep is vital," he says.

For guests wanting to keep in touch, rooms also provide Voice Over Internet Protocol, which allows free international calls anywhere in the world.

Tchen explains that the hotel upgraded its Internet facilities to provide this cutting-edge technology.


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