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February 25, 2011

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Langham leader looking forward to an exciting year ahead

AFTER a distinguished career in hospitality spanning 29 years over three continents, John Webb could almost be considered a veteran in the industry. Having spent the last three years in Shanghai working for luxury five-star hotels, he has seen Shanghai grow considerably.

Webb, now general manager of The Langham Xintiandi, Shanghai, has worked for many luxury hotels including three JW Marriott hotels, and relishes his new appointment with Langham Hotels International, a Hong Kong-based hotel management company with a rich British heritage.

Joining Langham's flagship hotel on the Chinese mainland in March 2010 and getting himself involved since the very early stages of the property's development and pre-opening, Webb defines his new job as exciting, challenging and rewarding even though he has been involved in the hospitality industry for nearly three decades with half of that time as a general manager.

"It's pretty much like bringing up a child from a baby to a toddler and eventually to a teenager, rewarding and positively challenging," he said. "That's great. I do get restless and need to keep busy, so the pre and soft opening of the hotel has been perfect for me and very exciting to date, and I'm looking forward to completing the hotel this year."

Scheduled to celebrate its grand opening later this year, the 357-rooms-and-suites property with a high-profile Xintiandi address is so far 60 percent open with 200 guests rooms for sale.

As the general manager of a luxury hotel which has a brand heritage dating back to 1865 in London, Webb said it is his task and pleasure to develop elements of European grandeur - a level of sophistication, classic elegance and unique style - offered to the guests through both a good physical design of the property as well as quality services.

"For today's travelers, luxury is about nice things and sometimes what we want to deliver is the simplicity of things," he said. "And a big part of luxury is to deliver quality with poise and respect."

Starting his career with Thistle Hotels in the United Kingdom at the age of 15 by washing dishes and earning his hotel management degree through three years of hard work on his days off, Webb gained extensive food and beverage experience, which he enjoyed very much, before eventually being promoted to his first general manager position in Sydney, Australia in 1995.

"Joining the buzz of the hotel as a young guy has been in my blood for a long time," he said. "And since I enjoy travel, I fortunately chose the right industry for being able to travel."

Like many other hoteliers, Webb, who left the UK and moved to Australia in early 1990, has managed five-star properties in several Asian countries over the past ten years including China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnamand India.

While it could be a "good" time to join a company such as Langham when it is expanding aggressively not only in China but also around the world, Webb insisted one of his priorities, besides managing and positioning the hotel well, has got something to do with branding.

"We have to make sure that the flagship hotel represents the Langham brand well, mainly for the future expansion of the brand in China."

And he's certainly upbeat about that. Boasting a hot Xintiandi location, good "hardware and software" (referring to a solid physical product and engaging staff), as well as branding for the future, Webb said he is very confident about the hotel's sales for 2011 and the coming years.

And for the hotel industry, the seasoned hotelier, while admitting that competition is inevitable with more hotels being established in the city due to Shanghai's overall growth and future positioning as a city, also remains very optimistic.

"In the short-to-medium term, there might be an oversupply of hotels in some areas or of certain levels, but as supply slows down into 2013, the hotel business in Shanghai will do well in the medium-to-long term as business demand will return to pre-crisis level in the next two years," Webb predicted.

A family man, Webb used to exercise a lot, mainly running and cycling, when he had more spare time.

These days he balances his weekends between his young family, a daughter of four and a son of two, and wife Claire, with cycling as exercise since it is good for not only the mind but also the body.

Best Deals

The Langham Xintiandi Shanghai will be serving its legendary Tiffin Afternoon Tea in the Cachet Lobby Lounge from 2:30pm to 5pm, seven days a week. The tradition of English afternoon tea, or "Tiffin," dates back to the 19th century when the legend says that the first lady to enjoy "afternoon tea" was Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and Queen Victoria's lady-in-waiting. At The Langham, guests can look forward to indulging in a selection of delectable treats exquisitely prepared by The Langham Xintiandi's chefs. Guests can choose from The Langham Classic high tea, The Langham Indulgence high tea or for something special The Langham Christofle high tea.

Favorite Dish

The first six months of 2011 will see the hotel open two new restaurants.

Ming Court, the hotel's signature Chinese restaurant will open next month and offer Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

XTD Elevated will launch in spring/summer and will be an outdoor lounge and bar with cabanas and day beds. Destined to become Shanghai's newest and coolest hangout, XTD Elevated will have a South American vibe and feature the latest music from a resident DJ.

Next month, The Langham Xintiandi's Cachet restaurant will open the Cachet Juice Bar and offer fresh juices and healthy salads. Later in the spring, Cachet Martini Bar will open, set in a suspended real-size yacht, while Cachet Al-Fresco, opening in the summer, will be the perfect venue to sit outside, dine and take in all the excitement and atmosphere of Xintiandi.


March 2010~currentGeneral manager of The Langham Xintiandi, Shanghai

April 2008~March 2008General manager of JW Marriott Shanghai

May 2006~April 2008 General manager of JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa

April 2003~May 2006 General manager of JW Marriott Mumbai


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