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April 1, 2011

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Luxury with no fuss

WHEN joining Kerry Hotel Pudong in July 2009 as its "very first" employee, Australian Malaysian George Wee, then a 17-year Shangri-La veteran, found at least two reasons to relish his newest appointment within the same company - a new city and a new hotel brand.

Now five weeks after the official opening of the luxury property in the heart of the Pudong New Area, the general manager says his involvement since the early stages of the hotel's development and pre-opening has been "exciting and enriching."

The hotel has 574 rooms and suites and is adjacent to the Shanghai New International Expo Center and opposite Century Park.

"Kerry, as the newest member of the Shangri-La family, essentially shares the same DNA," Wee says. "I guess you could call us the younger brother or sister … luxury in a relaxed, less formal setting - no fuss."

What makes the Kerry unique, according to Wee, is that the guests' experience extends beyond the hotel's walls. The newly opened property blends into Kerry Parkside, an integrated complex designed to be a part of the local community.

"It is true that our proximity and direct access to one of the country's largest exhibition centers and the hotel's collection of conference and banqueting facilities, the largest in Shanghai, position us as a business hotel," Wee says. "However, we are much more than that. The hotel's lifestyle elements … The COOK, The MEET, The BREW, our innovative three-in-one dining and entertaining destination … Kerry Sports, with all it offers … and Kerry Parkside, with shopping and entertainment options, naturally position us to reach out and be a part of the neighborhood around us."

Intentionally opened in mid-February, a traditional soft season for hotels in Shanghai, Wee and more than 900 dedicated staff are taking their time building a reputation for the new brand. They make no compromise on service quality and are strongly backed by owners who always believe in offering products and services that are truly the best value.

"We're blessed with owners who have really good taste and understand what the business is all about. Our intent is to provide a memorable experience for guests by making them feel relaxed and comfortable, always," says Wee.

As part of a complex comprising a Grade-A office tower, a shopping mall and serviced apartments, Kerry Hotel Pudong has already drawn positive responses from the market during its very first few weeks of business.

Its restaurants are already very busy. Guests are particularly enthusiastic about The COOK, introducing a new era in dining concepts in Shanghai, with a la carte, freshly prepared food from 11 designer kitchens. It is ideal for diners who get somewhat bored with regular buffet dining and want a fun and varied culinary experience.

Club membership is already growing at a fast clip at Kerry Sports; so fast that the club has already stopped offering introductory membership rates. The city's largest sports club, Kerry Sports includes a 24-hour fitness center, studios for yoga (even hot yoga), aerobics, spinning, Pilates, an indoor swimming pool, outdoor tennis and basketball courts, as well as a wellness day spa and the Adventure Zone, a children's indoor playground. Covering 6,000 square metres over three floors, it offers panoramic views over Century Park, one of the city's largest "green lungs."

"At the end of the day, the hotel business is about caring for people. For me, a hotel that can make guests feel truly comfortable succeeds in offering true luxury," says Wee.

The philosophy extends to everyone at Kerry. "Our owners care very much about our people. We, the managers, understand this, so instinctively, we look after our own people. In turn, our hotel associates care about providing our guests with an experience that makes them naturally comfortable … it's that simple, really," he says.

Starting his hospitality career more than 30 years ago with Copthorne hotel in England, Wee went on to manage various international branded hotels across three continents. He still finds his hotelier's job totally thrilling.

"I can't imagine myself doing a 9-to-5 job. There is no job like a hotelier's job. It's like running a village, diverse, challenging but fun. There is never a dull moment and from one day to the next, there is always an element of the unexpected," he says.

And during his limited spare time, Wee enjoys every moment with his family while also indulging in just enjoying his leisure time, observing: "Isn't that another definition of luxury? Having the freedom in life to make no plans and experience pleasures in the art of doing nothing. Savoring the joy of relaxing, whether it's sharing a terrific dinner with my wife, reading a book, or playing a round of golf."

Best Deals

To celebrate its opening, Kerry Hotel Pudong Shanghai offers a terrific introductory package until May 31. It's ideal for residents longing for a "staycation." There's Century Park across the street, the 6,000-square-meter Kerry Sports, children's indoor fantasy playground, the Adventure Zone; and many dining and entertaining destinations: The Cook, The Meet, The Brew.

Its package includes:

? Accommodation in a deluxe room (single or double)

? Daily breakfast for two

? 300 yuan dining credit at The COOK, The MEET or The BREW

? A welcome amenity

? Complimentary wired and wireless broadband Internet access

Rates start at 1,688 yuan plus tax. Reservations subject to availability and advance booking. Favorite Dish

I'm a huge fan of Malaysian cuisine. One of my favorite spots is the Asian Noodles kitchen in our international a la carte restaurant, The Cook. We handpicked three Malaysian hawker chefs fresh off the streets of Kuching, Sarawak, who replicate authentic flavors of famous hawker dishes, with their own recipes and styles. I absolutely love the Kuching laksa (curry) and kolo mee (dry tossed noodles with honey roasted pork).

July 2009~currentGeneral manager of Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai

November 2001~June 2009General manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing

March 1998~October 2001General manager of Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa, Singapore

April 1995~March 1998General manager of Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

July 1992~April 1995Hotel manager of Shangri-La China World Hotel, Beijing


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