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March 21, 2012

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Renaissance pushes service to new limits

THE Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel has launched the Navigator program to help guests get the most out of their trip to the city. The program is all about providing the latest tips about where to "sip, savor, shop or see." Cao Qian writes.

While many international five-star hotels in Shanghai feel it's inappropriate to call themselves experts in the delivery of authentic local experiences, Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel is one of the few that proudly makes that claim.

The 370-room upscale hotel, one of five Renaissance properties in the city under the Marriott family, has been making various endeavours over the past two years under a global repositioning program that aims to provide guests with a one-of-a-kind, off-the-radar, micro-local hotel experience.

"We are repositioning ourselves as a lifestyle brand and the approach we are taking is a little different from others," says Silvio Rosenberger, general manager of the hotel and a two-decade veteran with Marriott. "We want to add something wonderfully new for our guests and offer them a hotel experience that allows them to get the most from a trip."

One key element in the Renaissance global repositioning project is Navigator, an on-site, online and mobile program built around a database providing guests with recommendations about food, spirits, retail, music, entertainment and culture.

Partnering with W Cities, the world's premier database of authoritative travel content, the Navigator system is a combination of information from W Cities with personal information and recommendations from the hotels' "navigators" for places to "sip, savor, shop or see."

Trained 'navigators'

"The trained 'navigators' we have at each Renaissance property around the world are really experts of the local market," says Rosenberger, a German native who has been living in Shanghai for almost seven years. "They are responsible for creating an 'In the Know' document for guests when they check into the hotel outlining specific recommendations in the city updated for that week."

And what makes the program really timely is that designated navigators, or select hotel ambassadors as Renaissance would like to call them, are by no means the only people who get involved in the initiative. The entire hotel team, from those doing the laundry to waiters and engineers, is encouraged to make up-to-date recommendations for guests who are ready to get the most out of their travel experience.

Available on the hotel's website and accessible through apps to iPhone and iPad users, the Navigator program can save travelers from lugging around a heavy, and often outdated, guidebook that misses the "undiscovered gems" that Shanghai has to offer.

With programs designed for families, business and leisure travelers as well as for special occasions such as those on a honeymoon, the program has been receiving very positive feedback from hotel guests, 90 percent of whom are business travelers with tight schedules, according to Rosenberger.

"Jumping from one meeting to another, these people don't have enough time to explore the city, and we're here to help," he says.

Other major initiatives under the grand Renaissance repositioning program include RLife Live, a new entertainment and music platform that provide hotel guests and local patrons opportunities to engage with musical talent and catering services under the philosophy "current, compelling and inspiring."

"Every brand (under the bigger Marriott family) is repositioning in a different way and Renaissance is one of those that has put in the most effort," says Rosenberger. "The lifestyle situation in China is very new (at the moment) and most of the hotels in the country are very traditional. However, you can still feel the trend that the younger generation is looking for something different.

"These people will be market leaders in 10 to 20 years and that's why we are keen to catch the trend and catch these people to ensure our business for the next 30, 40, 50 years."

With 2011 being another record year in revenue for Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel, fueled by strong occupancy as well as great results in catering, Rosenberger remains upbeat about the hotel's business for this year.

"Shanghai has picked up a global reputation after the World Expo and has become a more popular destination for both business and leisure travelers," he says. "And there is also huge potential, though intensified competition too, in the city's MICE (meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions) market, which will hopefully witness double-digit growth over the coming two to three years."


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