Reto Klauser is the general manager of the new Shangri-La Guangzhou and is well versed in hotel management having been with the Shangri-La Group for 11 years and in the hospitality industry for more than 26 years.
How does the Shangri-La differentiate itself from the other hotels and different brands around China and in Guangzhou — especially in the MICE sector?
The MICE world is always looking for new destinations, new experiences. I believe as we are growing rapidly, Guangzhou is becoming quickly an attractive and alternative destination within the region and offering products, services and experiences suitable to both the local and international the MICE market. Clearly, Guangzhou's main segment will always be trade shows, however, new hotels here, just like ours can now offer the full range of facilities to satisfy the requirements of any type of events.
Guangzhou is noted for major trade fairs and exhibitions as well as being a gateway city for the Pearl River Delta. What do you view as your hotel's target sources of customers?
For Shangri-la Hotel, Guangzhou, MICE is definitely our main focus. Our MICE events are mainly from the domestic markets such as Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Outside of China, Singapore is the top in terms of MICE.
Shangri-La has a reputation for comprehensive MICE offerings. What features would you highlight to the people responsible for organizing MICE bookings?
Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou is the largest MICE hotel in Guangdong province. We have a variety of function rooms including an auditorium which can accommodate up to 98 delegates. Recently, we launched a new meeting and conference plan called "Envision Perfection". Depending on the choice of packages, some of the perks include complimentary team building activities, complimentary turn down gifts with company logo for all participants, and ree mobile phone and local calls for the event organizer and many more.
The whole idea is to make ensure seamless service for meeting planners and conference organizers and the response so far I must say have been more then encouraging.
What have been some of the challenges you have encountered since you were appointed general manager of the hotel and how do you deal with them?
As in every fast growing industry, to find and retain a quality workforce is the key to success and competitiveness. We have to continue to heavily invest into our HR systems to keep our good staff and to develop very quickly plans to attract new talent to join our industry. Too many well-trained staff leave the industry after 4 to 5 years.
Also, the MICE world is always looking for new destinations and new experiences. I believe Guangzhou is rapidly becoming an attractive and alternative destination within the region and offering products, services and experiences suitable to both the local and international MICE market. Clearly, Guangzhou's main segment will always be trade shows, however, with numerous new hotels opening here, we need to continuously reinvent ourselves by coming up with new event solutions to make Guangzhou and the hotel interesting to MICE planners.
What plans does your hotel have for the MICE sector for 2008 and beyond?
Meeting, conventions and exhibitions are definitely our key segments. Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou has eight restaurants and bars, two ballrooms and eight function rooms of various sizes and over 700 rooms and service apartments, thus allowing us to cater to events of any scale. Some of our clients include AVON, KFC, Wrigley's, BMW, and Price Waterhouse Coopers just to name a few. The most recent being AVON which saw 900 of their staff spending four days in our hotel as part of their annual incentive. I guess being the only hotel right next to the new Guangzhou International Convention & Exhibition Centre in Pazhou has its advantages.
Moving forward, we are working towards attracting more incentive groups, because we believe that Guangzhou has a lot to be discovered. As the saying goes "Eating in Guangzhou". Cantonese Food, one of the four major food styles in China originated right here. Chime-Long Paradise – the largest amusement park in China – that boasts a Guinness Book of Records roller coast ride is only 20 minutes away from the hotel. Overall, we believe Guangzhou offers great value for money for any MICE planner.
What corporate social responsibility programs do you have and how do you plan implement them?
We are constantly exploring ways to give back to the local community we operate in. Last year, Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou participated in the Terry Fox Run Guangzhou 2007 on 24 Nov 2007. It was the hotel's first major community initiative since its opening in March 2007. Around 150 staff attended the event which took placed at the Luohu Golf Course. In addition to turning up for the run, we sponsored food as well as room nights for the silent auction. Proceeds from these went to the Terry Fox Fund.
As a group, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts works closely with Care for Children — a Beijing-based organization working in partnership with mainland China's government to provide foster care programs for needy and abandoned children in mainland China.
In other areas of corporate social responsibility, Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou is working at getting Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System certified and we are constantly reviewing our suppliers as they are part of the system of ensuring that only safe, high quality food is served.
With increasing numbers of company bookers and tourists looking for hotel discount information through websites, how does your hotel use email marketing, loyalty marketing, and the Internet to strengthen its online operation?
We are launching a booker's incentive program called Red Traveller. Launching together with this program is a website, which allows bookers to redeem with the points they have accumulated items such petrol vouchers, spa packages and even room stays in other Shangri-La properties.