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November 17, 2011

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Renaissance GM jumps back in the saddle

ROBERT J. Lohrmann, a 27-year veteran with Marriott International, has returned to Shanghai, a city he knows and loves.

As the general manager of Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park since April, Lohrmann says it's been about eight years since he left the city after opening Marriott Shanghai Hotel Hongqiao, one of the first Marriott hotels on the Chinese mainland.

And the American native, who started in the hospitality industry in the 1970s in New York, is excited and happy to be back despite Shanghai being one of the biggest battlefields in China among major international hotel groups.

"When I left the city last time there were less than 30 international branded hotels in Shanghai, but now it is close to 90," he says. "However, businesses coming to Shanghai have also been growing significantly during the period, which has supported the opening of additional hotels."

Earlier this month, Marriott International, which now has around 20 operating hotels in the city and 56 across the country, just announced the signing of its 100th management contract in China, an indication of its strong pipeline in one of the world's fastest growing tourism markets.

"At the end of the day, our expansion has really helped us with brand awareness. As long as we are not next door to one another, have a good understanding of our brands and work together, we win," says Lohrmann. "As for rivals from outside of the group, we should always be well aware of what they are doing and try to keep ourselves one step ahead of them."

Relishing his newest appointment, which is also his first assimilation to Renaissance, a more casual brand within the Marriott portfolio, Lohrmann's initial interest in the hospitality industry dates back to his childhood, when he traveled with his family by car along the east coast of America on vacations.

"I felt interested and excited about being in a hotel even as a kid, fascinated about seeing people moving around and doing different things at the hotel," he says. "And my hotel working life has satisfied my childhood curiosity many times over."

Getting his first hotel job at the front desk in 1975 to earn some money when he was still in university, Lohrmann has a distinguished hospitality career spanning four continents for several hotel companies that also include Hilton and Disney.

Today, as a general manager, what drives him is the sense of accomplishment he seeks to achieve in either opening a new hotel or taking an existing hotel to another level of success.

"I get an immense sense of personal pride and achievement in having successfully opened so many properties that remain high performance hotels today," he says. "Creating a new business from nothing and re-sculpting an existing one into something more meaningful is what it is all about for me."

In China, he has served as the opening general manager for Marriott Shanghai Hotel Hongqiao in 2000, Marriott Sanya Resort & Spa in 2004 as well as managing director for the openings of both JW Marriott Beijing and Ritz-Carlton Beijing, a multi-use project, in 2007/2008 just prior to the Beijing Olympics.

But a general manager's job, which he likens to driving a big train or bus, is always challenging though rewarding as well.

"I need to make sure that I set a clear direction, communicate that effectively and gain support and trust from my associates," Lohrmann says. "I have to make sure too that we always stay true to our core value which is taking care of our associates. Seeing them grow to higher levels of responsibility and become the best they can be is, without any doubt, the most gratifying part of my job."

Working almost 12 hours a day, Lohrmann likes to balance his life with some sports including golf, bowling and cycling. His newest plan is to explore Sheshan Hill in southwestern Songjiang District on two wheels with his wife one weekend.


April 2011 ~ current: General manager of Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park

2008 ~ 2011:

Vice president and general manager of JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa and Marriott Vacation Club(s) Phuket

2007 ~ 2008: Managing director ofJW Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels Beijing

2005 ~ 2007:

General manager of JW Marriott Seoul Hotel & Marquis Spa

2003 ~ 2005: General manager of Sanya Marriott Resort & Spa, Sanya, Hainan


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