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May 19, 2019

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The life and soul of hospitality

IF anyone has the right to claim that hospitality is embedded in his DNA, Jan Jansen must be high on the list.

The 38-year-old general manager of Conrad Hangzhou, since March 8 the first Conrad hotel in the Yangtze River Delta region, is actually the seventh generation of a Dutch family that has demonstrated extraordinary passion for the lodging and catering businesses.

“Having grown up in my parents’ hotel and seen all facets of this industry, you can consider me as a true hotelier,” Jansen, who took the helm of the 324-room property in the capital of neighboring Zhejiang Province about a year ago, told Shanghai Daily .“For me, spending time with people, be they guests or team members, listening to their stories and, in some cases, being part of their story, is what makes this industry so addictive.”

A young general manager for a luxury hotel of this size, Jansen said he is particularly focused on the guest experience right now, adding that surprisingly positive feedback has already been received over the hotel’s first two months.

“Hangzhou is blessed with many luxury hotels, some of them very unique, in different parts of town and we are the ‘newest kid on the block’,” said Jansen, who has been with Hilton for more than seven years and in several key gateway cities in the Asia- Pacific including Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney and Hong Kong. “We aim to be the market leader in terms of our rooms, restaurants, meeting space and wellness facilities and delivering personalized service in our first year of operation will be the key to long-term success.”

Located in Raffles City Hangzhou, a CapitaLand development featuring two 250-meter twisting towers in the emerging Qianjiang CBD, Conrad Hangzhou has already garnered great interest and tremendous feedback from guests despite its rather low-profile opening.

Designed by renowned Dutch architectural firm UN Studio, Conrad Hangzhou resides in one of the city’s most iconic buildings, visible from all angles of the city and boasting panoramic views for all of its guests. The design of the hotel is actually inspired by Hangzhou’s tidal bore — a natural wonder of quickly rising tides occurring once a year. Inside, the Hong Kong-headquartered international luxury design powerhouse AB Concept has concentrated on stone and wood elements to create an ultra sleek and modern feel for the hotel.

Sitting 50 floors up, the hotel’s Li’An Chinese Restaurant is also raising the height of the city’s culinary scene. Now the highest restaurant in Hangzhou, Li’An, in partnership with locally renowned chef Yu Bin, presents traditional Hangzhou cuisine in a more international and modern way. Some international influences in terms of cooking skills, ingredients as well as the way to plate dishes, will be implemented, in a wish to honor the city’s culinary legacy yet also reflect Hangzhou’s international and innovative perspective to the world as a fast-moving, forward-thinking, tech-savvy city filled with entrepreneurial spirit.

The other not-to-miss highlight of Conrad Hangzhou is the locally-inspired art concept on its 26th floor where JIN, a tea lounge and show counter during the day that evolves into a live-music bar after the sunset. By the way of adjusting density relations, the overall modeling design of the works are made more close to the images of the water of the West Lake, the name card of Hangzhou.

Vivid composition brings the ripples of the lake with the gentle wind into the lobby, not only keeping the interior design elements but also showing the poetic West Lake in the space concurrently.

True luxury

Focusing mainly on corporate and MICE (meets, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) businesses during the weekdays and leisure guests on the weekend, Conrad Hangzhou also features an 800-square-meter grand ballroom seamlessly connected with an outdoor area, making it one of the city’s newest and stylish addresses for ceremonies, weddings, conferences and other social gatherings.

“It is the perfect brand for the perfect development in the right city,” Jansen said, adding that 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary for Hilton as a company and also a big year for the luxury Conrad brand in China in terms of expansion.

“At Conrad, we are committed to offering intuitive service, which means we read our guests at the right time, provide them with what they need before they ask or realize without disturbing them.”

Born and raised in properties with the enjoyment of dealing with people deep in his blood, the manager shares his own understanding about what real luxury is all about.

“In today’s age, everything is fast moving and everyone seems to be in a rush,” he said. “So for me, the essence of luxury is about taking your time, both with your guests and with your team members, and giving your personal welcome and personal interaction. That’s what makes the difference and what people will remember.”

Embarking on his professional hospitality journey as a breakfast waiter at a large hotel in Amsterdam, a job that the general manager still recalls as very enjoyable mainly because of the connection he was able to build with his guests, Jansen said the hotelier’s job makes him feel both blessed and fortunate, despite its long hours’ nature.

“The relationship you can build with your guests and the fact that some guests make the effort to come and visit you in your hotel in either Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong or Hangzhou is remarkable,” said the general manager, who usually spends more than 12 hours a day at the property, walking around and meeting guests and colleagues to make sure the new hotel has got the right ambiance.

“Additionally, hotels have always had a very young workforce and working with these people who share the same passion to serve others and to help them grow and develop is highly rewarding.”

This being his first GM job, Jansen said he has found his experience of building a 300-staff team in one year from what he called a “one-man band” just by himself very special and fulfilling.

“I have been very fortunate to have had some inspiring mentors, and in my stage of my career, it is very nice now to also act as mentor to others.”

An avid lover of sports, Jansen enjoys playing tennis as well as visiting tea plantations in suburban Longjing Village for fresher air and spectacular views of the city from above as a pleasant balance for work.


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