Originally from the Netherlands, Michael Hendler has nearly thirty years of experience in Asia of which eleven have been with the Shangri-La group. Earlier this year he was appointed general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel Dalian having previously been the general manager of the Shangri-La Hotel, Surabaya in Indonesia.
How have the focus on the Beijing Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake affected the hotel business in Dalian?
The Sichuan earthquake affected many people and many of them are still recovering from this natural disaster. Although, many companies have canceled travel and hosting events, it was important for Shangri-La Hotel Dalian to display its corporate social responsibility and do its utmost to contribute to those in need.
With regards to the Olympics, it is a fact that the stringent security measures are affecting the international business segment — but at the same time, it is important for this event and the large volume of people, that all safety and security measures are well managed.
The Shangri-La Dalian is one of the few international five star hotels in the region. What are the advantages and challenges of this position?
Hotels are the barometer of the region's business. When occupancy is healthy, it is a positive sign for the city. The leadership advantage is to be able to participate indirectly in the development of the region, while bringing international standard experience to the local community.
The challenge is turned into an advantage by continuously being able to invest from all angles for the future, mainly in people (training and career opportunities), product (renovations), process (benefiting from the Shangri-la Asian experience).
You have a wide experience across Asia with Shangri-La what similarities and differences have you noticed across the region?
First of all people, people and people. It is a real pleasure to work with Asians, as they are eager to learn, not afraid to work and as a result share the benefit of your experience to reach their goals. Most of the business community I have spoken with and have spent time with in Asia enjoyed what they do mainly because of their working relationships and the resulting achievement.
I personally do not see much difference, except perhaps in experience, from one city to another. But experience can be learned, with the right attitude and that's what we at Shangri-La focus on.
How do you differentiate the Shangri-La Dalian from other high end hotels in the region?
Difficult for me to say, I only can preach what Shangri-La is striving for, commitment to providing guests with distinctive Asian standards of hospitality and service from caring people. In striving to delight customers each and every time they stay with us we aim to exceed expectations through consistently providing quality and value in our products and services. We share the group's knowledge with the local community and present our corporate social responsibility whenever we can.
What advice would you give to someone who is visiting Dalian for the first time?
Although, I have not yet spent much time in visiting Dalian it is one of the most charming cities in China, possessing many beautiful parks, squares where you can wonder around and enjoy the friendliness of the people of Dalian as well as excellent beaches and golf courses. Dalian's mild climate and beautiful environment make the city an ideal holiday resort.
What have been the major challenges you have had to meet since taking up your current post?
Major challenges? None. When you enjoy what you do, you take every opportunity and turn them into experience to share with your team. It is indeed a beautiful hotel and I am proud of a great team of professionals I work with.
How does the Shangri-La Dalian use Internet and email marketing?
E-time grows very fast in China. Shangri-La's corporate website at shangri-la.com has been upgraded with more outstanding functions on room bookings. It's quick and convenient for guests to get hotel information and to make room bookings through Shangri-la's website. We have a marketing team to collect guests' email addresses and consolidate them into our guest database. The hotel will send out all kinds of information including room promotions, food and beverage promotions, and information on health club activities. E-marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote our hotel.
What corporate social responsibility programs does your hotel have?
Corporate social responsibility has been and continues to be a high priority for Shangri-La Hotel, Dalian — in fact, the hotel has been active since it opened 10 years ago. Corporate social responsibility is no longer a 'soft' addition to the business – it has now become our customers' and companies' expectation. We are committed to supporting charities and protecting the environment, respecting our staff and supporting the community to build a better future. We have the fullest support from our employees in joining one of our CSR program "Volunteers' Workstation."
Shangri-La's Volunteers Workstation is formed by 94 employees from over 10 departments including Engineering, Food & Beverages, Accounting, Security, Front Office, Housekeeping and Kitchen etc. All the volunteers participate in a variety of charity activities from helping the needy, donations, and environmental protection activities.
If you had just one sentence to sum up the Shangri-La Dalian what would you say?
Being part of a great hotel group, whenever you stay, we hope you will enjoy the devotion of Shangri-La's staff to service.