Managing A Hotel In The Gateway To South Western China

Peter Wong, the general manager of Harbour Plaza Hotel Chongqing, has experience in the hospitality industry that spans more than 20 years both in mainland China and overseas. His previous portfolios have involved finance, sales and marketing, and food and beverage management. He has served international groups including Marriott, New World Hotel, Hyatt Hotel, and Shama.

What is your first impression of Chongqing? Please could you talk about three local dishes and a cultural landscape suitable for business travelers to Chongqing.
My first impression of Chongqing is that it's a city full of energy with friendly people, I can feel the momentum when I walk on the streets and watch all those people passing by. I realize there is lots of development in the city and I am sure there are much more scope for Chongqing to become a metropolitan and gateway city of south western China.

I would recommend business travelers visit "Chaotianmen Square". That's where two rivers merge into one, it's a unique landscape feature that can be said to symbolize the culture and historic background of this city.

My favorite dish in Chongqing of course is theever famous "Chongqing chilly/spicy hot pot" actually all of the cuisine in Chongqing is very exotic and tasty.

Drawing on your 20 plus years in the hotel industry, what is your management philosophy?
My objective is to train up my team and all my associates to deliver a consistent quality service to all our guests and give every guest the pleasant experience of enjoying the consistant comfort of staying in our hotel: just like staying at their own home. In order to achieve this, all my team members need to have the same mission and objectives and this quality service concept should originate from the bottom of their hearts. Quality service is a continuous journey to further improve and enhance our overall standard and advance to next level.

The State Council has planned "one center & two tourism zones" for Chongqing's tourism industry. What impact would this bring to Chongqing's hospitality industry? And to Harbour Plaza Chongqing?
This is definitely good news for the Chongqing hospitality and tourism industry, as this will get more attention from tourists and encourage more visitors to come to Chongqing, not only will it improve local commercial and economic activities, but subsequently these interactive activities between visitors and local people will help Chongqing to become a metropolitan city much faster then before.

Chongqing has lots to offer being as tourist destination, both for sightseeing and leisure travel. Developing and positioning Chongqing as a popular tourist destination city will serve as a catalyst for Chongqing to become a metropolitan city and indicates there will have more and more international travelers visiting Chongqing.

For the hotel industry it means the management team should have an international vision. Operation and practice should become more and more to international standards and should adapt to international culture in every detail.

In our hotel, we already have an international team and since we opened, we have mixed-in international culture as well as local customs and practice in our guest services and daily operations, so we are ready for this challenge.

As the first international five-star hotel in the Jiefangbei area, what unique advantages does the hotel boast now in the new market environment?
Being one of the earliest overseas hotel management brands in Chongqing, we have established our landmark status in the hotel industry here in Chongqing and we have also build up our reputation during those years both for quality value and for customer service. Our team consistently delivers value for money and quality personalized service to all our guests.

One of the reasons for our success is that we value and have adopted both international and local practice and we have absorbed the local culture as well as respecting local customs in our operations and management.

Our guests choose to stay with us because they feel at home. We have a very experienced local and expatriate management team and we aim to cater for our guests in such a way that they feel as if they were staying in their home country.

I can quote two examples:
One, we have deliberately recruited a German chef to provide home style gourmet German food for our apartment's long-stay German tenants.
And two, in view of the local hot and humid climate, at night we provide our hotel guests with a de-humidifying beverage in their room.

These examples show how we adapt and absorb local customs and culture, yet maintain a diversified vision to meet the needs of international clients.

Hotel competition here in Chongqing is very intense, that's normal in a developing market and this offer more selection and choice for consumers. From the consumers perspective, competition means better value for money.

Our people are our key element for staying ahead of this fierce competition. After all the hotel industry is all about people, your guests, your associates, and your clients and quality service evolves from peoples. Fortunately we have a very strong international team.

Could you please tell us about the hotel's rooftop garden? What does it mean for the Jiefangbei hotel circle?
The rooftop garden is one of the unique features of our hotel, we don't offer "grand and luxury", rather our hotel offers our guests comfort, convenience, and relaxation .

We emphasize the overall design and the comfort of our guests as well as personalized service in our guest rooms and food and beverage outlets.

The terrace garden is designed to provide a relaxing atmosphere for our business travelers and this atmosphere and the surroundings make our guests feel as if they are relaxing in their own back yard after a long day of business meetings.

It's also one way to deliver value for money to our guests; and feedback from our guests shows they like this design very much and appreciate what we provide.

What does the hotel do in terms of team building and customer service training for its frontline staff?
We provide regular training sessions for all our associates, depending on the nature of their job and their responsibilities this includes classroom theory and on the job role-play training.

Training topics vary from technical aspects to management skills, from customer service to personal development, we very much put the emphasis on our associates personal development.

Our department heads also get training at our corporate head office and we give our local associates familiarization and task force assignments opportunities in our overseas properties to allow them them to experience different cultures. This is also one way to prepare all our associates for internationalization.

How does the hotel train management and staff to handle public relations crises when there are emergencies like complaints from a major client?
We have lots of operating policies to deal with various cases. Crisis management depends on the nature of the incident.

The key for crisis management and also for handling major client complaints is to ensure open communications with the media, our in house PR can handle this very well.

What is your particular strategy to attract more bookers in terms of MICE?
We provide value added services to our MICE group clients, especially for servicing their overall needs.

From our clients feedback during our discussions, most MICE organizers find it's very time consuming for them to coordinate and arrange events, since they are not doing this on a daily basis. Other than hotel accommodation; they also need to arrange flight tickets, plan meals, book meeting venues, and also organize some sight seeing activities for participants. On the other hand as professional hoteliers our event management team do this on a daily basis.

Upon having this feedback from our clients, our events management team immediately responded that we would also extend this service to this areas as well and assist organizers to arrange those activities by providing a complete solution to them. We spend time and worked with our clients prior to the actual event date and assist organizers on those areas.

We almost function as their internal staff during the whole event process and our clients appreciate our service and count on our support for future events. I believe this is one of our winning edges.