Managing Grand Mercure In Vibrant Shanghai

Thierry Goepfert, general manager of the Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel in Shanghai, is a 30-year hospitality industry veteran with Accor group. Since starting his career in Sofitel Paris he has worked as general manager of hotels in 15 different counties across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

What makes the new tower of the Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai unique?
With the official opening of the new wing of the hotel, we have completed an ambitious refurbishment program for this hotel and opened some key facilities for our guests. These include: the Tian Di Show Kitchen Restaurant offering an open kitchen buffet concept with Western and Asian dishes; the Golden Ballroom, 750 square meters of pilar-less flexible space with seven meters high ceilings for events such as conferences, seminars, product launches, gala dinners, and weddings; and two floors of recreational facilities including an indoor swimming pool, a fully equipped gym and separate yoga room, a roof top terrace and garden, 12 private chess rooms all with own mini bar and facilities, a kids corner, and lastly an area with three snooker tables and a table tennis room. In the first quarter of 2009 we will also open a fully equipped 1,000 square meter spa centre and an outdoor tennis court. We are the only internationally branded hotel in this area that can offer all this services all under one roof.

How do you position your hotel in the market? What is your strategic plan for RevPAR?
Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai is part of the Grand Mercure Hotel brand which includes deluxe hotels with a distinct local flair. As such it is fundamental to implement the right pricing strategy that attracts loyal customers without compromising on quality and service standards. Especially in a competitive market environment it is important to maintain rate integrity and focus on delivering a high standard of service to encourage repeat customers.

What do you expect the percentage composition of your guests (e.g. corporate travel, MICE or leisure) will be?
As with all hotels the key is to achieve the right balance and percentages of all segments depending on the seasonality and market trends. At the Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai we are active in all market segments as we believe that they all represent an important part of our business.

What are your plans on on-line marketing and promotion?
More and more, on-line marketing plays an important role in the distribution of our products and allows us to reach a much wider group of customers. As such we constantly review our on line strategies which form an integral part of the overall marketing plan.

How do you and your team face the post Olympic environment in 2009 and the difficulties that result from the international financial crisis?
To host an Olympic event is a great opportunity for any country and city, the exposure and follow on media coverage in unquantifiable. However it also presents some challenges which need to be effectively managed as does any other challenge. Also in the light of the current international financial crisis it is important to focus on our core activities, constantly review our sales and marketing plans and always deliver a high level of service to our customers.

How is corporate social responsibility reflected in your daily operations?
Accor hotels around the world have been participating in the "Earth Guest" program committed to the preservation of our environment. The program focuses on some key areas such as energy, waste, water and waste-water, ozone layer, biodiversity, green purchasing, and informing and raising awareness.

At the Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai we also have started to embrace this great initiative and have created a special Energy Saving Committee with representatives from each department aimed at finding ways to reduce and better mange our energy consumption. The committee meets on a regular basis and quarterly reports are also created and analyzed. Everyone in the hotel is involved from staff to guests as we believe that every single effort can make a big difference. Some of the initiatives that we have been implementing are recycling of paper, energy saving lights, water efficient shower-heads, and switching off unused lights in office space and public areas.

Many large hotels are now focusing on the business development of the MICE sector. What special plans do you have for expanding the MICE market?
MICE is an important market segment as it can deliver greater revenue for the hotel not only for the accommodation but also for other incremental services such as food and beverage. Also MICE is a segment that to an extend is not affected by difficult financial times as companies will still invest money in motivating their sales teams or recognizing their loyal customers with incentives. Therefore we look at this segment with much interest and we also believe that we have the right facilities and expertise to attract customers and develop this segment.

What role do you think that your hotel's spa plays in maintaining guests' loyalty?
To complement our already extensive leisure facilities in the first quarter of 2009 we are planning to pen a brand new spa on the third floor of the hotel. These days people tend to work longer hours and are often are away from home on business for long periods of time therefore it is important to have a spa in the hotel as this can help our guests to relax and achieve a balanced lifestyle, and make their stay with us more enjoyable.

For MICE clients, how do you work to reduce to avoid their complaints concerning your salesperson or receptionist?
At the Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai we take guest feedback very seriously and therefore we have implemented several guest surveys and satisfaction programs which are standard with all Accor hotels in this region. The results of these surveys are systematically reviewed and shared with the entire team. Also corrective action is taken when necessary in the form of additional training, purchase of new equipment, or review and evaluation of current policies and procedures. Particular attention is given to front line departments such as Sales and Front Office as these are often the first and last point of contact for many guests.

What preparations have you made for the 2010 Shanghai Expo?
2010 Shanghai Expo is an extremely important event which will help to further raise the profile of this already vibrant city as a destination for leisure and MICE business. As such we, and the other Accor hotels in Shanghai, are working very closely with the 2010 Shanghai Expo committee to make sure we can take full advantage of this opportunity and contribute as an accommodation provider to the success of this fantastic event. Also, in due course, all our staff will be trained and briefed on the importance of this once-in-a-life-time event.