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November 24, 2011

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A passion for doing things differently than competitors

IT'S quite common to see luxury sedans like a Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or even a Rolls-Royce parked in front of the city's five-star hotels, but what about ultra-vintage Forever bicycles?

It's almost impossible to miss them at Shanghai Marriott Hotel Luwan.

Jerry Miao, general manager of the newly opened 291-room riverfront property, says the bicycles are a way to stand out from other hotels.

"Pedaling along the Huangpu River when the weather is good is a relaxing and fun experience, and exploring Shanghai's neighborhoods on two wheels can also save a lot of time compared to walking," Miao says. "The classic Forever bikes, meanwhile, add an authentic Shanghai touch."

The bicycle service is just one of the initiatives by Miao and his team to improve the customer experience.

And their efforts have paid off. Shanghai Marriott Hotel Luwan was recently ranked third in overall customer satisfaction among 33 Marriott-branded hotels in the Asia-Pacific region, a great result for a hotel that just opened about six months ago.

A native of Shanghai, Miao started in the hospitality industry in 1989 in the sales and marketing department at New York Marriott Marquis. The property is one of the largest Marriott hotels in the world with nearly 2,000 guest rooms.

Miao, who moved to the United States as a teenager with his family, has spent about 15 years in different Marriott properties in America before returning to China in 2004.

He says he returned because he wanted to pursue a more "vibrant career life."

After staying in Hong Kong for about 18 months as the resident manager at JW Marriott, which he called a perfect transition assignment, Miao returned to the Chinese mainland in early 2006.

"Compared with the well-established, very mature hospitality industry in the US, the hotel market in the Chinese mainland is full of potential and opportunities," he says. "Of course, at the same time, that means competition among industry players could be extremely intense, particularly in vibrant cities like Shanghai, where everyone seems eager to grab a slice of the big cake."

For the 23-year veteran with Marriott, there are always opportunities in the hotel market as the country's economy keeps growing at a fast pace. He says capturing these opportunities and outperforming rivals remains critical to success.

In one of its latest endeavours, the hotel has joined forces with some popular group-buying websites to offer very attractive buffet deals at its City Bistro restaurant. During the first three dining campaigns provided for online group buyers, the hotel received good feedback from the market with some 17,000 covers being registered, a very successful promotion for the new property.

"We have been building up recognition quickly through group purchasing campaigns, which cater to a new customer demand for saving money," Miao says.

"As a five-star hotel, we sometimes also need to follow the latest market trends to seek opportunities for our business when industry competition is turning more intense."

Six months after its official opening in May, the average room occupancy at the hotel is now about 70 percent, according to the general manager.

Working for more than two decades with the same hotel group, Miao has found himself very fortunate that his passion for the job has never receded.

"I really enjoy the moment when guests express their satisfaction about our service and that's definitely the best part of a hotelier's job," says Miao, who admits that receiving good and bad feedbacks is also part of life in the industry. "To me, negative feedbacks are not always a bad thing because to some extent, people will only bother to give advice and suggestions when they have high expectations."

A frequent gym visitor, Miao plays golf sometimes on weekends and is a fan of American football and soccer.

He is also the general manager of Courtyard Shanghai Jiading, the first international branded hotel in the outlying district. Thus he oversees two properties simultaneously.

Best Deals

Shanghai Marriott Hotel Luwan offers a Christmas Eve package, including one-night stay and a buffet for two. Deluxe City View Room costs 1,888 yuan; Deluxe River View Room 2,088 yuan and

River View Suite 3,088 yuan.

Favorite Dish

Golden Chicken Soup with Braised Cordyceps and Bamboo Shoot is the GM's favorite dish. The Chinese soup is light, fresh and healthy. Chicken soup is known for its nutrition and having a tasty warm chicken soup in winter is just a treat. The herbs and bamboo shoots further enhance the flavor and keep the GM healthy.


2011 ~ present: General manager of Shanghai Marriott Hotel Luwan

2009 ~ 2011:General manager of Suzhou Marriott Hotel

2006 ~ 2009: General manager of Shanghai Marriott Executive Apartments Pudong

Jerry Miao joined Marriott in 1989 in New York.


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