Managing Kempinski With Conviction And Passion

Stephan Interthal, the general manager of Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center, is in charge of the major renovation and repositioning of the hotel. A 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry, he has managed some of Kempinski's finest properties including the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, Kempinski Vier Jahreszeiten Munich and, most recently, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin.

What is your impression of Beijing?
So far, I feel very good about living and working here in Beijing. Kempinski asked me at the end of last year to consider taking this job, which I gladly accepted. It's different from what I've done before, but I have been working in hospitality field for more than 30 years and the industry requires me to travel and move a lot. It is easier for an experienced hotelier to quickly adopt into any new environment.

I spent a couple of weeks to familiarize myself with the hotel, my team and shareholders. I have also started to explore the local culture and acquaint myself with the ambience here.

You have managed some excellent Kempinski hotels, what features do you think Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center should have?
We want this hotel to be renowned as the European hotel in Beijing, where warm and caring people deliver the finest individual services and add value to our traditions through unique and innovative offerings. Our icons are butler service and concierge service, which represents the European flair. We also have standards and operating procedures that we keep applying to all Kempinski hotels but with a regional touch in each of our hotels.

What are your plans now you manage this hotel?
For myself, I have to adapt myself to the environment and different mentality from Europe. For my organization, I have just changed the current reporting lines and the organizational chart, and introduced new meetings schedules.

Meanwhile, we are building two mock-up rooms (one with two beds and one with a king size bed). The designing firm is HBA, a well-known Singapore-based design company that has worked in the past with other Kempinski hotels, like Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok which is opening in June this year.

Our shareholders will hopefully approve the project in June and we will start the renovation in this October. The new project fits the architecture of the building and will present a new innovative room product. There will also be new diplomatic penthouse suites and a brand new spa. The renovation process will be divided into two parts, the first half will last from October 2010 till May 2011 and then the second half continues; the operation of the hotel will continue during both periods. It is a large-scale refurbishment with a budget of a couple of hundred of million renminbi but this is to be confirmed by the shareholders.

We believe Kempinski Hotel Beijing will consolidate its leadership in the market through its refurbishment and repositioning.

As a senior professional manager in the hospitality industry what is your management philosophy?
Being honest and straight, transparent communication, high-degree of decision-making, tolerate and honor different cultures, determined, delegation, farsighted target setting and strategy, live to what you stand for.

Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center has an excellent location, what is the percentage composition and the source markets of your guests? What different services will the hotel supply focusing on the different guests?
We have a high percentage of business clients, additional markets are FIT leisure and meetings. Guests are mainly derived from China; from Germany and other European countries; and from Japan, Korea and other Asian markets. We offer European hospitality with an individual Eastern touch, we like our guests to realize, that they are with Kempinski, but also in Beijing, China.

Many hotels are focusing on business development in the MICE sector, what special expansion plans does Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center have for targeting the MICE market? What kinds of detailed schemes do you have to serve key MICE accounts?
MICE is one of the most competitive market segments, but from our point of view our meeting products are competitive. We do not have other new expansion plans at this point of time, however, we are going forward steadily according to the previous scheme. With the oncoming renovation we will add high-class small board-meeting rooms, which we haven't offered so far.

Given the seriously competitive situation, what new measures have you been taking in terms of value adding service for customers?
Kempinski stands in for individualized and personal services. We are offering the European hotel experience through selected services, e.g. butler service on our Executive floors, as well as concierge services on a 7 by 24 scale. Value added service is something we have always in mind and for which we have good reputation, not only since the market became more competitive or when the economy started to slow down.

Looking back over your past would you please give an example of an incident that strengthens your confidence and conviction in the hospitality industry?
I cannot give you one incident, I can only assure you, that I am a happy man having chosen this industry, I always wanted to become a hotel manager — some 35 years ago I was already convinced that this has to be my profession, and it has been my passion since then. Every day I go to work with a smile on my face, and I am very grateful for this.