Shangri-La RVP Kieran Twomey on China’s luxury hospitality market

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Kieran Twomey, Regional Vice President & General Manager Jing-An Shangri-La (Shanghai), the latest international flagship of the Hong Kong based luxury hotel chain. Mr Twomey shared some unique insights on the evolution of China’s luxury hospitality market, as well as on Shangri-la‘s ‘silent’ evolution, exemplifying with this exceptional property.

What motivated Shangri-La to open a second property in Shanghai – tell us more about the complex which houses the Jing An Shangri-La?

The Shangri-La brand is an elegant & exquisite luxury icon with a prospective of China market. Jing An Shangri-La was opened as a flagship property for China and positioned at the very top of the market in terms of product and services. Jing An Shangri-La is the new generation of Shangri-La hotels. It retains Shangri-La’s elegant interior but with cleaner and more contemporary lines in an overall lighter palate to meet the needs of the changing market.

As a part of the 45-hectane Jing An Kerry Center integrating prime office, retail, residence and hotel space, it is designed and built to be destined as a new landmark in the district. This symbiotic relationship creates a lifestyle concept that is new and refreshing beneficial to all members of this mix-use development.

How is the Jing An Shangri-La positioned – which is your comp set?

Jing An Shangri-La is not simply at the very heart of Shanghai’s most exciting, elegant, thriving district, but by virtue of its concept is a major contributor to this life with its values and heart-warming hospitality, inspired by millennia old Chinese culture, it embraces China’s Global City – it has Shanghai at its heart

What are the competitive advantages of Jing An Shangri-La?

To be honest we really don’t compare ourselves to competitors as our product is fairly unique as a self contained multi-use environment. Our Hotel is part of the Jing An Kerry Centre. When fully occupied there will be a daily critical working mass of 12 to 15 thousand people in the complex.

Total meeting and convention space is 4,465 square metres: the 1,740-square-metre Grand Ballroom is the largest in West Shanghai. It is absolutely gorgeous with 10 meter ceilings and a floor to ceiling glass foyer overlooking the Piazza and the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. It also connects to a roof garden for an outdoor pre-function option. The meetings area also feature an innovative self-contained Lifestyle Suite which has its own Dining Room, Bar and Living Room spilling out into a landscaped Courtyard.

Having such strong brand recognition in China everyone has been waiting for us to come back to the Jing An neighborhood for quite some time. As such, there is a high level anticipation and an expectation to bring a ‘new lease of life’ to this end of Nanjing Road.

What is the profile of your guests?

According to the analysis on year 2014 result, 48% of our hotel guests are from mainland China, 9% are from North America and 8% are from Europe. We have our loyal base of mainland Chinese guest and most of them are business travelers coming to the core business district of Puxi. In addition, international leisure travelers as well as MICE clients also account for a certain proportion of our guests

Do you aim to attract local non-hotel guests and how important is this for your long term strategy?

Definitely, local non-hotel guests play an important role in hotel business in terms of our products and services. Lastly, the hotel runs the most creative and exciting restaurants, lounges and bars in town. Each outlet has its unique selling points ranging from multiple dining concepts and fantastic designs. These are destinations in themselves.

For a property of your size, what is your strategic approach to ensuring?

A high standard of service !

I’ll probably give you a very untraditional answer. I don’t believe there are any strategies to ensure the service standard. Of course we have a comprehensive training system for every staff, like Shang Care training, Supex training, English training and even cross training with sister properties. At my position, I don’t believe it’s my job to teach people how to do good service, I believe it’s my job to inspire them. People have to motivate themselves so that they can smile from the heart to the guest.

So part of our hiring process at the Shangri-La Group is that of finding employees that are already self-motivated, have a passion for hospitality industry and are keen to get ahead in life. Besides that, my job is to make sure we do everything we can to keep inspiring them, setting a good example ourselves. Sometimes I think of myself as a cheerleader: leading the team, encouraging people and making sure they get rewarded for their positive behavior.

Which of your dining outlets has been most successful and why?

It’s hard to say which outlet is the most successful because we have arguably the 5 most delicious outlets that one can imagine ranging from Western to Eastern all of which have multiple personalities and fantastic designs.

Architect Andre Fu of Hong Kong-based AFSO designed a unique destination restaurant, Summer Palace, which serves South-Eastern Chinese cuisine with Cantonese flair. Inspired by Chinese ink paintings of poetic landscapes, Fu created a series of contemporary dining chambers, each providing a different dining ambiance and menu.

The 1515 WEST, Chophouse & Bar, combines old Shanghai film-making theme with classic American bar and grill décor. Chef Bradley Hull will bring “ranch to table” dining to Shanghai, serving beef from hand-selected cattle raised in Australia specifically for The 1515 WEST. The main dining room features an open-grill kitchen complimented by a Raw Bar and The 1515 WEST bar, serving signature cocktails from a team of world-class mixolgists.

Café LIANG features A la carte menu prepared dishes with Southeastern Asian influence as well as mainland china classics. A flexible dining experience is balanced with an approachable pricing and service philosophy. Al fresco dining will be available in the piazza area.

TSURU features classic Japanese kaiseki cuisine. The interior decoration, inspired by the traditions and culture of Japan, contrasts reds, chocolates and pine hues as its main colour. Chef Masami Honda with over 48 years of experience in Japanese cuisine presents authentic kaiseki to every customer visiting TSURU.

Located in the hotel’s piazza, the eye-catching two-storey bamboo-clad glass-roof building brings cuisine to the doorstep of guests and residents. The building has been designed by world-famous architect Shigeru Ban and stands right next to one of the former residences of Chairman Mao Zedong. Al fresco dining is available on the ground floor and the second-level roof terrace is topped off with DJ music, creating the epitome of a relaxed ambience. Calypso offers Mediterranean food with focus on Italian, Spanish and South of France cuisine prepared by Chef Bruno Ferrari. The restaurant uses only the best selection of meat and seafood, cheeses and pastas. Authentic Napoli-style pizza and house-made gelato are also some of its greatest highlights.

How has the Shanghai luxury hospitality market evolved in the past 3 years?

The hotel industry in China will not only be sustained but will continue to flourish in the foreseeable future that China’s desirability and accessibility as a tourist and business destination will only become but more attractive as more infrastructures such as hotels, meeting & convention spaces and transport facilities are gradually added. Shanghai is one of the most important and active cities in China in terms of business destination for its openness and internationalism.

Kieran Twomey, Regional Vice-President / GM Jing-An Shangri-La, Shanghai