Peter Weber has been the general manager of the Four Seasons Shanghai for six years.
Prior to that, the Swiss national's hotel career had taken him through all levels of hotel management in Europe, the Americas, and the Asia Pacific Region.
You have been with the Four Seasons Shanghai for several years. How have you seen the hotel scene changing in Shanghai?
Better by the day! Incredible progress in employees' confidence to interact and look after the well being of well-traveled international customers. The ever increasing competition (will there be anyone missing in a couple of years from now?) also force existing properties to upgrade facilities and service delivery, or they risk being left behind.
The local customer base is also evolving rapidly and their understanding and expectations on quality products and services help to improve quality from already well established levels.
How do you differentiate the Four Seasons Shanghai from the other hotels in the same market-space in Shanghai?
The key for us is to be consistent in service delivery with our sister properties (80 and growing) around the globe as we establish a brand on consistent service delivery. Our advantage is that we do have the global consistency focus and a single brand headed by the founder and a team of long serving executives. Our growing portfolio in this part of the world with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao and soon be complimented with Beijing, Hangzhou, and Pudong, will allow for greater recognition from the Chinese customer base.
What are the biggest challenges you face in Shanghai?
There is currently an imbalance between supply and demand which hopefully will rectify itself by 2010. The expanded infrastructure projects such as expansion of Pudong and Hongqiao airports, the new cruise terminal and a reliable rail system will further assist in growing demand. What we are missing at present is a world-class convention center to compliment the convention spaces for what we call major citywide conventions. Compliments to the city government for putting the global sporting map with world-class sports arenas such as the Tennis Center and the Formula One track.
Your hotel career has taken you from Europe to North America and the Asia – Pacific region. What differences and what similarities have you perceived in these different regions?
I have always said neither two countries nor culture are ever alike and I still stand by my belief. What is typical in Switzerland may not be deemed suitable in other parts of Europe or in the North American culture. Likewise, what is widely accepted in the States may not find its common ground in Asia. There’s an old saying; "Wherever I hang my hat, that’s my home." I respect every culture and it is up to us to adapt to our current home. What I attempt to do is to lead by example and show what can be done, how to make a difference. Most importantly, we need to adhere to the simple golden rule set by the founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels, Isadore Sharp: "Treat others as you would like to be treated".
What preparations is the Four Seasons Shanghai making for the Expo in 2010?
The World Expo 2010 offers a great opportunity for Shanghai to showcase the Better City Better Life slogan to the Chinese and the citizens of the world. We are looking forward to do our part to showcase Shanghai hospitality and quality service to the many visitors. And having two properties by then, we can give you the new (Pudong) and more traditional (Puxi) neighborhood experience and if that is not enough, then we would recommend to our guests to take a detour to Hangzhou to visit our Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake for a truly unique experience.
And after the Expo — what then?
I have to be confident that we will have an infrastructure in place to support the extensive hotel and serviced apartments inventory available in the city. It is my understanding that some of the Expo venues, such as the Convention Hall, will be available for MICE business and the only concern is that we are not pro-active enough to secure this business at this stage. Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other Asian cities have excellent facilities and we need to fight hard against them to secure large scale events for late 2010 and beyond.
What Internet and e-mail based marketing programs does the Four Seasons Shanghai have?
Who remembers the days of telexes and telegraphs? The internet is here to stay and Four Seasons naturally invests heavily to have this important communication tool current and effective. Have you visited our website lately? Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts has one of the strongest web-based sales tools available to any hospitality companies. On property, each hotel and resort can also create its own communication pieces to regular F&B customers and past guests.
What corporate social responsibility initiatives does your hotel undertake?
This subject has been close to us since our pre-opening in 2001 and over the years the hotel has worked closely with the Shanghai Charity Foundation on first the Terry Fox Run and then on other important community support programs. We are also working with various charitable organizations on other events and our employees have adopted the Hui Xin Children's Home for various activities throughout the year. The International Branded Hotels of Shanghai organization also has an extensive community support program in place. We also appreciate the support we receive from the community and feel a strong obligation to give back in many different ways.
If you had just thirty seconds in an elevator to tell someone why they should stay in the Four Seasons Shanghai – what would you say?
I'm an introvert and thus cannot talk for 30 seconds straight! I would say please give us a chance to look after you while visiting Shanghai and you will see how proud our employees are to provide you with a world-class Four Seasons service experience.