Louis Liao, the general manager of Howard Johnson ITC Plaza Chongqing, has had a hospitality career of 27 years with 15 years of work experience overseas. He is a former special assistant of the president of Howard Johnson Group (China), and has held a range of senior positions such as general manager of Beijing Plaza Royale Hotel.
In your opinion how has the Chongqing hospitality market changed in recent years?
More than 12 years have elapsed from the opening of the first international hotel in Chongqing. And the hotel industry has developed very fast in recent years. We are looking forward to competition. Because wher there is competition there is the development.
What development opportunities have there been in the three years since your hotel opened?
First of all, in Chinese, the word "Crisis" embraces danger and chance. In normal times, many corporations will choose to target the traditional business cities. But for cost control, they will choose other cities to replace the traditional cities: e.g. Chongqing. The cost base is lower than in the traditional business cities. So, we have opportunity to let more people know us and choose us.
Second, the Chongqing Government has actualized the policy of five Chongqings, Forest Chongqing, Healthy Chongqing, Safe Chongqing, Habitable Chongqing, and Convenient Chongqing. This policy has improved the environment and also promoted the image of Chongqing. And it has also attracted many corporations to invest in Chongqing.
Third, the Shanghai World Exposition attracted many overseas guests to come to China and they visited other cities in China.
What is the percentage breakdown of the guests in your hotel? What specific services does your hotel supply for the different categories of guests?
Our key target is the business guest. And the corporate business travel guests and the MICE business are the majority of our business. From our perspective the travel industry in Chongqing has developed very fast. The City of Hot Springs and the World Nature and Culture Heritage has promoted the city's travel image. The development of Chongqing pushes many guests to choose this city as a MICE and business activities destination.
What challenges do you face as a Chinese general manager who manages an international brand hotel?
One of the challenges is the difference between international management and local culture. Howard Johnson belongs to Wyndham, which is an American hotel group. In my case I've traveled and lived overseas for many years, so my management approach comes from Europe and America. At the same time, I'm very familiar with Chongqing culture. So I can determint the difference between them and connect them to Howard Johnson's specific culture.
The State Council has planned "one center and two tourism zones" for tourism in Chongqing. What impact will this have on Chongqing's hospitality industry? And on Howard Johnson ITC Plaza Chongqing?
The hotel industry is just one of the hospitality industries. Actually, good travel facilities are good for the hotel industry. I believe as one market segment the number of travel groups will increase. Chongqing will be a business and tourism city, and the hotel business will increase too.
Chongqing officials predict that the number of five-star hotels will exceed 50 in the next three years. In light of this what is the core competitive edge of Howard Johnson ITC Plaza Chongqing?
The people. I focus on the human resources. And people are the key to competitiveness. I have a special way of management. From hotel opening, the steady EXECOM and the increase in business prove it.
What has been your management philosophy in a career the has spanned more than 27 years?
Create the a family-like work environment, let the staff reveal themselves and bring their creative spirit to delight our guests.
What is your particular strategy to attract more bookers of MICE events?
We offer the different proposals for different requests by guests and we have a flexible sales strategy for guests. In addition we created the "My Way" program to show our appreciation for the support from bookers and organizers.
Please introduce three local dishes and a cultural landscape to business travelers to Chongqing.
Hot pot is food must to try if this is your first time in Chongqing. But now, as many people come to Chongqing so many times, I would recommend some special foods such as eel, and taro with chicken which is eaten near a famous hot spring.
And for cultural heritage, the Dazu Stone Carving is a must see. We always said that Dazu in the South area is like Dunhuang in North area. And with a heritage of more than one thousand years history and because of its diversity, it has much to offer.
An increasing number of bookers have mentioned to China Hospitality News that environmental protection is very important, and they have made some specific suggestions. What specific incentive policies do you have to encourage guests to protect the environment?
We have energy-saving notices and brochures to remind guests to control the usage of energy resources and water. And we will launch a low-carbon project in the near future.
What are your plans in terms of corporate social responsibility initiatives?
First, we have trained university students, e.g. in the HOJO class. We offer them positions and give them a chance to learn about hotel operations.
Second, we set the energy sources controlling system and train staff for this. The hotel has set up the Ideas Databank to encourage the staff offer the good idea for low-carbon project.
Third, we also focus on children who live in remote areas and whose parents work far away from them.