David Wicker is a veteran of the hospitality industry with over 25 years experience. Prior to taking the role of general manager of the New World Wuhan, he held similar roles in Shanghai at the Plaza Royale Oriental Shanghai and Shanghai JC Mandarin.
How will you bring your extensive experience of traveling in 20 countries into managing this hotel?
My travels have taught me to understand situations more quickly as a result of experience with many cultures. People talk in many languages and have many behavior patterns, but as we march on through the 21st Century life has become more about personal experiences, whether these are in the course of your professional business or your own personal life. As a result I have been able to make fairly rapid, and in my opinion, accurate, assessments of situations or business opportunities and quickly move our short term tactics to respond to these, while developing longer term objectives.
As the hotel's location differs from those beside the river, what special leisure facilities do you have for guests?
The New World Hotel boasts most of the standard service options that any major five- star hotel operator offers however one item that we do have which is very unique is our outdoor swimming pool and garden located on the sixth floor of the hotel. This facility has the potential to become a central focal point in the summer months for outdoor catering events as well as an excellent spot for our guests to relax and rejuvenate from the rigors of their business lives. This potential venue will appeal to a wide range of guests from numerous demographics.
What different aspects of Wuhan impress you both as a tourist and a hotel general manager?
To some extent, Wuhan is a little 'behind the times' as far as growth and its developed cousins (Shanghai and Beijing) are concerned and while it lacks a great variety of tourist sights, it does have some interesting venues such as Yellow Crane Tower and Guiyuan Temple, and, of course East Lake. What I like to do is walk the small lanes, investigating the “local” Wuhan and of course tasting the variety of foods that can be found on many streets. I enjoy the many markets — food, fabrics, flower, tea, or electronics, as they are always buzzing with so many people.
New World Hotel Wuhan has an excellent location, what do you expect the percentage composition of your guests to be?
This will be continue to be — 45% Corporate; 25% MICE, and around 10% Leisure with the remainder from other sectors.
How does New World Hotel Wuhan differentiate itself from other top-level hotels around Wuhan?
In a place like Wuhan the majority of business is domestic — 90% of our business whether rooms or food and beverage is generated from or through them therefore we want to focus on providing service and value for money as Wuhanese people like value when they purchase, but they are fast learning about luxury and the luxurious lifestyle: so services, attention to detail and flexibility will make us a leading hotel in this city.
What is your strategic plan for achieving your target RevPAR?
Apart from ensuring we maintain our fair market share and exceeding it, we will continue to up-sell our guests to better quality rooms and services thus increasing the daily yield we get. We will also be looking at further scrutinizing our daily rates to the general public and ensuring that we flex these up, and down, based on demand over the long and short term. We have also recently signed up a contract to work very closely with a global revenue management company who will help to guide our team towards achieving these targets.
What is your management philosophy? In your opinion what makes a hotel a good hotel?
What makes a good hotel? The people: that is, the people who work within its walls and, the people who visit and use it. I believe in our people and their ability and try to ensure that we recognize not only the special work that goes on, but also the work that makes the hotel tick on a daily basis. This way the people who work every day will acknowledge the people (guests) who come to enjoy and experience our facilities.
Compared with major international cities like Shanghai and Beijing, Wuhan has preserved more of its local culture and ideas. How do you balance the relationship between local features and the international standardization of Wuhan?
I'm not a believer in letting things stand “as is”. The hotel opened with the very thought of preserving some of those Wuhan traits: and our competitors have done the same over the years. Times are changing in Wuhan, as are it's people and they want to see newer, better services, and facilities, and we are part of an education process for them.
What difficulties do you expect to encounter as a result of the global financial crisis?
I'm an optimist, not a pessimist! There is no Global Crisis in Wuhan! I'm not going to say that there has been no impact but I will say that Wuhan is one of a handful of locations in China that has not been as badly affected as others. While room rates may have fallen slightly year on year, occupancy and MICE activity have grown and amongst our competitors we have made significant inroads towards taking market share. The total number of occupied rooms in the city is almost the same as last year, and there are more rooms available. Food and beverage business is positive so we will remain positive. To answer your question: we don't expect any difficulties as the majority of our business is Chinese!
At present, many large hotels are focusing on business development in the MICE sector, what special expansion plans does New World Hotel Wuhan have for targeting the MICE market?
We have recently divided our sales department and created a new role — director of catering –, specifically to target and capture our share, and more, of the available market in this segment as well as to re-energize the team that handles all of our MICE business. We are also expanding our sales team and refocusing our reservations and revenue management efforts and we have recently added another executive to the team, the resident manager, whose experience and background is F&B orientated. These move sand additions will strengthen our ability to create memorable and rewarding events for out clients in the future.