Exploiting Sheraton's Location In Changsha

William CheaWilliam Chea was recently appointed general manager of the Sheraton Changsha Hotel. This new role follows two years as executive assistant manager of the Sheraton Shenzhen Hotel. Chea has over 20 years experience of hotel management with specialization in rooms; sales and marketing; and Six Sigma management.

How do you differentiate your hotel from others in the same marketplace? What is your strategic plan to achieve average RevPAR?
We provide our customers with the Sheraton branded modern luxury products with the unique Sheraton brand experience. Our products and services are recognized as the best and hence most expensive in the city. Our guests will feel pride and value for money when staying in our hotel.

Retain our existing customers and explore new customers. Rate reduction will definitely not be our strategy but properly positioning ourselves for higher end markets where guests are willing to pay a premium for premier services and products. We will properly price our products, for example increased our room rate by almost 10% over last year while most hotels are maintaining or even cutting their rates.

Sheraton Changsha Hotel has an excellent location, what do you expect the percentage composition of your guests to be?

80% of our guests are domestic Chinese of which 40% are from Hunan Province. The remaining 20% are from overseas locations such as Hong Kong, the USA and Europe. For type of client 55% of our guests are corporate travelers, 20% from the MICE segment, 20% are leisure travelers, and the remaining 5% are tour groups and others.

What are your plans for Internet marketing and online promotion of your hotel?
E-marketing or promotion nowadays is certainly one of the most effective marketing tools. Sheraton and Starwood have a huge customer database which enables us to increase our e-marketing efforts or promotions. We will make use of this advantage to strengthen this area. E-marketing of promotions is also cost effective which is especially imperative during the current economic downturn.

How do you and your team face the post-Olympic environment in 2009 and what difficulties do you expect to result from the international financial crisis?
Hotel business was actually better post Olympics because of the easing of some regulations such as entry visa or work permit and the performance in the last quarter of 2008 was very good.

The effect of the global economic crisis on Changsha has been limited. Overall the economic situation in Changsha is stable or growing steadily evidenced by its double digit GDP growth last year. The Changsha government is aggressively promoting Changsha for foreign investments by improving the city' s business environment and infrastructure. Local residents' spending power remains very strong. Our business, both rooms and F&B, for the first two months of 2009 was up by over 10% compared to the same period last year. Nevertheless, we will continue to improve our operational efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity in order to reduce costs and expenses.

What corporate social responsibility programs does the Sheraton Changsha Hotel have?
We have supported the UNICEF Check Out For Children program since the hotel opened by encouraging all check-in guests to donate a dollar for the project for the basic immunization of poor children worldwide. In addition, Sheraton Changsha has regularly sponsored and helped the orphans unit of Changsha city. Sheraton Changsha and its owners are running a teacher award scheme that has won a nationwide reputation.

At present, many large hotels are focusing on business development in the MICE sector, what special expansion plans does Sheraton Changsha Hotel have for targeting the MICE market?

MICE is always an important segment for hotels as its generate room, F&B and almost every kind of hotel revenue. Sheraton Changsha has the best of the best conference facilities in Changsha but we will keep improving based on customers' requirements. We have an experienced and professional conference team to take care our MICE but we will keep learning especially in meeting local companies' needs. We see opportunities to grow this segment as there are more and more big foreign or global companies entering Changsha and the existing nationwide companies are organizing a lot of MICE in Changsha. Starwood has global sales offices in key MICE feeder markets such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Hong Kong and we will strengthen our coordination with these GSOs.