William Hall, general manager of the Hotel Equatorial Shanghai, is originally from Britain but has spent most of his working life overseas; working first in France, then the U.K., before coming to Asia and working in Malaysia, Vietnam and now in Shanghai.
As a general manager with considerable experience in the region what have been the greatest challenges that you have observed in the Shanghai hotel scene?
By far the largest is the increase in the number of international hotels over the past three years which has lead to a softening of the market place – the current visa situation and Olympic focus were somewhat unexpected. The second main challenge is recruitment — this year alone in Shanghai there are over 6,000 international hotel rooms scheduled to open, that equates to around 6,000 new staff. For an opening hotel this is a major challenge.
What are some of the major challenges that hoteliers face in the run-up to the 2010 Expo?
Increased inventory, staff recruitment and working towards the post-2010 period.
What about after 2010?
Good question and this is only starting to be raised at this time, the city needs a professional and efficient convention bureau on the lines of Hong Kong or Singapore. The city has to be able to compete on the world stage to seriously ramp up the number of visitors to Shanghai. I do not believe that we can continue to do business post 2010 as has been done pre 2010. A major attraction such as Disney to attract leisure visitors into the city would help.
What corporate social responsibility initiatives is the hotel implementing?
Our latest one would be green recyclable bags to replace all of the plastic bags in the hotel. These include laundry bags, food and beverage bags, and the in room shopping bags. We use over 70,000 plastic bags per year and this change over since June will help towards our community responsibility.