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June 10, 2011

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Seasoned in hotel life

WHEN Brian W. Dechant, a seasoned hotelier with more than 30 years' experience of a broad range of responsibilities in deluxe hotels and resorts in Europe and Asia, first came back to Shanghai in May 2010 as vice president for Howard Johnson International's China operation, the Canadian national probably didn't expect his days in the corporate office would be that short, or perhaps, neither did he ever perceive so clearly what the day-to-day life in a hotel really means to him.

Dechant, who went on to a new appointment only a few months later in September as the general manager of Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental Shanghai, a 523-room five-star hotel overlooking the Huangpu River and close to the Shanghai New International Expo Center in Pudong, says he's simply excited about catching the opportunity to return to a property role.

"During my short days in the corporate office, I really missed being in a hotel," recalls Dechant, who started his hotel career as a night receptionist in Europe in 1979. "I do love the interaction with my hotel associates and our valued guests - which was the original motivation for me to enter the hospitality business so many years ago."

Upon graduation from a hospitality school in Toronto, Dechant, the son of a diplomat, went to Frankfurt, where his father was assigned at the time and began his first job with the InterContinental Hotels Group. Those early years of his hospitality life in a foreign country - challenging not only in grabbing the essence of the hotel business itself but also, as a Canadian, struggling to perfect the intricacies of the German language - did help put him in good stead for his subsequent career development and enable him to earn great confidence in all facets of his job as a general manager today.

"Hospitality is an industry that you have to lay strong foundations for," he says. "It is not rocket science. Common sense and a positive aptitude in dealing with people are important."

After being engaged in the hotel business for more than three decades, with half of that time as a general manager, Dechant has also developed into a strong believer of the philosophy that associates are the center of the whole service culture of a hotel. And he is definitely one of those who knows exactly how to apply that principle in very practical terms.

In one of the latest examples, the hotel recently opened a special lounge in its staff dormitory, situated next door to the hotel with more than 100 units, with the specific purpose to offer more entertainment options to its residents, the majority of whom are from other parts of the country. The initiative - consisting of an Internet room, card room and TV room? has proved to be very popular among the dormitory dwellers.

"As hoteliers, we never forget where we came from and that's why I've always had a little bit of a soft spot for the rank and file staff," Dechant says. "I firmly believe that if you look after your staff, then they will look after our guests."

And that seems to have paid off. The staff turnover figures for the year to date have declined dramatically compared with last year even with two new major hotels opened in the neighboring area, an achievement for the hotel which the general manager is really proud of.

Spending, on and off, 14 years in four different cities, Dechant says he's enjoying his time in China immensely.

"I consider myself very fortunate to have managed hotels in Hong Kong during the handover in 1997, and in Shanghai during APEC in 2001 and World Expo Shanghai in 2010, as well as having been present in the country for other historic milestones such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics," he says. "I could probably classify myself as an 'old China hand' although that is unfortunately not reflected in my Chinese language proficiency!"

A voracious reader of mostly non-fiction books particularly about history and current events, Dechant is also a travel enthusiast which is perfectly reflected in his resume.

May 2010 ~ presentGeneral Manager of Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental;Vice President of Operations China of Howard Johnson International

January 2008 ~ April 2010General Manager of Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel

June 2005 ~ December 2007General Manager of Millennium Jakarta, The Panglin Hotel Shenzhen and Hanoi Daewoo Hotel

May 1995 ~ May 2005General Manager of Regal Hotel Hong Kong, Regal Kowloon Hoteland Regal International East Asia Hotel in Shanghai

May 1990 ~ June 1994Resident Manager of Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts in Phuket and Singapore

May 1979 ~ April 1990 Night Receptionist/Executive Assistant Manager of InterContinental Hotels Corp in Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, London, Stuttgart Best Deals

Set Lunch at Café Royale

A top-class business set menu is offered at Café Royale, which features an impressive open kitchen serving up a wide variety of international classics. Choose from the many mouth-watering dishes to enjoy a quick and delicious set lunch for only 88 yuan per person. A daily wine buffet is also offered for 100 yuan per person. Underlooked Perks

The fitness center includes state-of-the-art equipment enabling guests to achieve a comprehensive full-body workout, and the 30-meter-long indoor swimming pool is the perfect compliment. The fitness center offers a one-year membership at 8,800 yuan. Favorite Dish

Savor the best in regional Cantonese cuisine in a choice of 12 private rooms.

Chef's recommendations:

? Sautéed shrimps with tea leaves

Deep ocean shrimps and Longjing tea leaves are fried in olive oil to give this dish a refreshing tea-like feeling.

? Double-boiled shark's fin bone soup

The Hong Kong master chef's signature dish is cooked with assorted shark's fin bones for more than 10 hours and served with fresh cooked seafood.


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