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December 9, 2019

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Home » Feature » Mice

Hoteliers adapting to volatile market forces

1 How would you assess China’s MICE market? How is your property performing?

Manoj Mehta: Despite the recent slowdown in the economy, China, as the second largest economy in the world, continues to be one of the largest MICE (meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) markets globally. With world-class infrastructure and great hotels and resorts, China is an attractive destination for not only Chinese-based companies but also for companies based outside the country.

Our brand — naked — was established in 2007 as a high-end city getaway retreat during the weekends and a conference resort during the week to provide guests a “born naked, lived naked” lifestyle. MICE is an important part of naked’s business strategy.

In 2019, our properties continue to remain at the top of our competitive sets according to the industry reports.

Both naked Moganshan properties — naked Stables and naked Castle — are based within two to three hours’ driving distance from Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou, where a large number of companies have their headquarters and offices. This allows us to serve our MICE guests to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city within a short driving distance.

Both naked Stables and naked Castle offer unique attractive features to our MICE guests. They are great for team-building opportunities, with lots of close-to-nature activities including mountain hiking, tea picking, archery and a wellness workshop, as well as our unique facilities like Rock Amphitheater and Mandela Hall for company product launches and off-site meetings with gorgeous mountain views.

With its rich history and Scottish heritage, naked Castle attracts lots of corporate meeting as well as couples looking for a fairy tale castle wedding.

Edward Yuan: China has become a popular destination for MICE in recent years. According to the International Congress and Convention Association Global Report 2018, the number of international association meetings hosted in China in 2018 increased by 19 percent from 2017.

With significant investment in infrastructure, China is increasingly considered an ideal MICE destination not only by the domestic market but also by overseas organizations because of the lower costs involved, as well as other appealing factors such as history and culture.

Among our peers in the area, The Sanya EDITION has performed very well in the MICE sector because of its distinctive brand positioning, convenient location, modern luxurious design and, more importantly, the unique experiences created by our impassioned employees.

We also have quite an impressive range of venue offerings. For outdoor events, for example, we can provide two oceanfront lawns with panoramic views of the Haitang Bay.

Our venues range in size from 456 square meters to 2,100 square meters, which allows us to accommodate various sizes of MICE events. With 506 guest rooms, The Sanya EDITION is among the largest hotels in the area, giving us an important advantage of being able to host large conventions.

Fredy Pascal: 2019 was a challenging year for the industry in general. Making your resort hotel a mice destination has become an important quest.

In an era of consumption, a meeting is no longer just a simple business activity.

In addition to perfect event facilities and a professional team, a good MICE destination also needs to provide customers with the opportunities to experience a unique environment and themed products.

Therefore, the hotel operators need to work out the style and characteristics of the destination.

Conrad Hangzhou Tonglu, which opened on October 18 this year, is the first international luxury hotel in Tonglu, located in the picturesque foothills of Tonglu County and surrounded by the beautiful Tianxi Lake. The design of the hotel is inspired by nature, which is the core concept the hotel wants to convey to the guests.

The Conrad Hangzhou Tonglu combines a meeting experience with the fengshui culture, the beauty of Tianxi Lake and the architectural features of the hotel to create a conference package with Tonglu features and a relaxing and unique villa meeting experience.

2 More and more hotels are trying to provide exceptional services and create memorable brand experiences to pamper guests and distinguish themselves from the competition. What’s the strength of your brand and how do you differentiate yourself from other counterparts?

Manoj Mehta: naked is a lifestyle brand that focuses on providing its guests FFGG (fresh, fun, green and great) experiences. Our properties are based in stunning natural environments that provide a unique alternative to a typical city hotel.

We differentiate ourselves with naked’s award-winning inhouse design features, as well as with our focus on simplicity and sustainability of our hospitality.

Our guests get to enjoy mountain range views, lush green bamboo forests, rolling hills with rows of tea plantations, winding mountain roads and countless exquisite natural views.

When it comes to “play time,” naked weaves nature into various activities for its guests.

Guests get to ride horses, go hiking or biking on mountain trails, participate in a thrilling Land Rover driving experience on specially designed mountain tracks, fish, design and make pottery, build a bamboo raft and race against colleagues, practice archery skills, outdoor or indoor yoga and tai chi, or just kick back and relax in a private jacuzzi or a heated swimming pool. We call it HosPLAYtality.

Edward Yuan: The EDITION is a unique hotel concept in the “contemporary luxury” space, conceived by the legendary hotelier Ian Schrager with Marriott International.

In contrast to the opulence that traditional luxury is often associated with, The EDITION hotels demonstrate a level of sophistication and simplicity, coupled with warm hospitality and very distinctive food and beverage concepts.

We believe luxury can be delivered in a multitude of ways, and we aim to deliver a more modern notion of that.

Our MICE guests are typically companies or organizations that identify with our brand’s DNA, which is quite unique in China’s hospitality scene.

Fredy Pascal: As part of Hilton’s luxury hotel brand, Conrad hotels and resorts seamlessly blend modern design, innovation and fine art to inspire travelers from around the world.

The design and artworks in the hotel all contain the unique concept of designers and artists. Apart from this, the Conrad brand pays attention to the integration of local characteristics to interpret the concept of wisdom and luxury for travelers and inspire guests during the journey.

Conrad hotels and resorts are smart, luxurious and contemporary.

Each Conrad hotel and resort draws inspiration from local culture and aesthetics, creating a unique environment with distinctive architecture, eye-catching design elements, exquisite landscapes and fine art. Of course, the space is not the only wonder of the design.

In addition to using digital key technology to improve check-in efficiency, Conrad’s 1/3/5 program offers guests a variety of local itineraries, including cultural, artistic and culinary adventures, to help them explore their destinations.

3 What do you think the Internet-plus economy will bring to the hospitality industry? Do you use any social media to approach your guests?

Manoj Mehta: We believe that the Internet-plus economy offers a multitude of opportunities to the hospitality industry, and those who understand and use it appropriately will benefit immensely.

Our group was a pioneer in launching community-driven co-working brand — naked Hub — where we developed many inhouse digital capabilities to connect with our members and understand their preferences.

Now naked is leveraging and further enhancing these capabilities in the hospitality business.

In addition to the typical social media platforms, naked has launched an e-concierge service “naked Now,” which will allow us to anticipate the needs of our guests better and provide a higher level of service with improved efficiency.

Edward Yuan: The Internet-plus economy will continue to influence the hospitality industry and how we operate.

We are in a new era, with more highly advanced technologies that allow us to assemble and interpret big data, which in turn alleviates various aspects of our daily operations.

Our front-of-house team, for example, will be able to handle tasks such as tracking guest records and preferences more efficiently.

As part of Marriott International, we do take advantage of the group’s loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, and Li Yu, a mobile app that enables guests to contact a Chinese-speaking concierge at any point during their stay.

The concierge is able to provide instantly local travel information, handle reservation queries and arrange in-room amenities to follow their stay. The app allows users to share their feedback.

WeChat, perhaps the most prolific social media channel in China, has become a popular reservation and enquiry channel for The Sanya EDITION.

Through WeChat, our guests can browse our new offerings, make reservations, browse the hotel map and outlet information, and book for the China duty-free shop discount.

Fredy Pascal: Nowadays people use their mobile phone more frequently. Most people spend more than six hours on the phone and use a phone to book everything because it saves time and energy. This means the hospitality industry needs to get familiar with guest needs and follow the digital trend very fast.

For instance, we developed brand websites and apps years ago, but it’s not enough for our guests.

They intend to use a one-stop app where they can plan and book everything. And now we have WeChat and mini programs which are very convenient for guests to plan their holidays, book guest rooms and meeting rooms at the same time.

People in the hospitality industry need to be more sensitive about what guests like and how digital technology grows.

Our guests can have easy access to Hilton Honors apps, Conrad Hangzhou Tonglu’s website and WeChat mini programs to book rooms, a meeting venue and even wedding services. They will have a clear vision of the guest room feature, meeting room layout, setup and more.

4 The general manager is the person
who is in charge of providing strategic direction for the hotel and overseeing daily operations. What do you think is the most important trait or skill of a successful general manger? Could you give us an example of the most cheerful or stressful situation you have ever experienced?

Manoj Mehta: The management structure and strategy at the naked follows our FFGG value system.

Unlike most other hospitality companies, naked’s management structure frees the general manager of our properties of any sales or marketing burden, which allows him/her to focus exclusively on ensuring that our guests have a memorable FFGG experience.

This allows us to leverage “word of mouth” publicity from our super fans instead of advertisement.

The most important skill of a naked retreats’ general manager is to be able to deliver memorable FFGG experiences to our guests.

For example, last year, we launched a new sustainable technology called naked GEMS in naked Stables.

It allows our guests to remotely control the guest room’s air conditioners via iPad.

It also shows an instantaneous index for guests to learn the water and electricity consumption level of the hotel room in real time.

Through naked GEMS, guests will enjoy a more environmentally friendly experience during their stay at naked resorts and adopt a greener lifestyle through such simple interaction with the technology.

When guests check out, they would get some fun and green rewards by taking simple actions to reduce energy consumption and to protect the environment.

Many family guests use this opportunity to educate their kids about a green lifestyle, and they are happy and excited when they get prizes during their stay at naked Stables.

We can feel their happiness and we together create some fun and meaningful memories.

Edward Yuan: While there is a great variety of skills and characteristics that would allow a general manager to be successful in this role, I would say the position requires true leadership with a vision and the insight to constantly review strategy.

There are persistent challenges and that is very much a part of the job. In my case, The Sanya EDITION was the brand’s first property in China and in Asia.

I have a responsibility to convey The EDITION’s values to the local market, which is comprised of not only our guests, but our team here as well.

To accurately interpret as well as localize a well-established international hotel brand in China for the first time was a delicate challenge.

We constantly strive to refine our offerings, which must be on-brand yet appealing to our key market.

Fredy Pascal: A general manager today must be omnipresent and interact with his team members, key business partners, guests, suppliers and shareholders.

The general manager has to set the pace of the organization and have confidence, which are the most important skills.

Everyone needs a leader who can analyze the situation, choose direction and communicate effectively. It is not blind faith in theory, but the faith in research and experience.

Most general managers are analysts. They can do research, make a list and explain it carefully. But they won’t tell you what to do after that.

People prefer to work with a confident and supportive general manager. Once a general manager shows assurance and integrity, people are more likely to follow and trust him.

Confidence conveys positive energy, resilience and optimism.

A confident general manager has a vision of where they want to go and what they plan to achieve.

A general manager needs a clear plan to develop a strategic system for the team.

Confidence allows leaders to embrace bold risks.

They are open to planning, calculate challenges and are not afraid to take unknown risks in places where others are afraid to go.

Their flexibility is in their mistakes: If they make a bad decision, they are adept at dealing with the decision they chose.

They don’t get stuck on secondary tasks at hand. They participate in what they will build and be recognized for, enhancing the overall results of the company.

The Conrad Hangzhou Tonglu is one of a kind in China’s mainland.

It was a great experience building the team, brainstorming and working on procedures, training and selecting the hotel’s equipment. The hotel will exceed guest demand and expectations.

The closer you get to reaching a different milestone the more exciting it gets.


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