The secrets behind a successful hotelier

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Marcel Holman, General Manager of Taipei Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei

What are the key competitive advantages of Shangri-La Taipei?

I can address many things when it comes to the competitive advantage of our hotel.  Location-wise, the hotel is situated in the city center, which not only provides it great views overlooking Taipei City, but also gives it convenient access, as we are just 15 minutes away from Taipei Songshan Airport and 45 minutes away from Taoyuan International Airport, with two metro lines within walking distance.

In addition, we have just finished our renovation last year to refurbish our 420 guestrooms, Horizon lounge, lobby area and driveway, which elevate the accommodation experience for all guests.

Other than the accommodation, we also offer multi-function rooms, a wide selection of dining choices, complete leisure and business facilities that meet every need and more that I can share.

However, most important of all the advantages we have is the people that make us unique and stand out among all competitors.  It is the team work that makes it happen and ensures every guest is welcomed sincerely and leaves the hotel satisfied.

How is the hotel positioned?

As Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a well-established brand in Asia, with very strong brand recognition in Taiwan and mainland China, we are definitely one of the most competitive and top hotels in the Taiwan market.

Which is your competitive set?

International five-star brands which have already opened properties or are about to open new hotels in Taipei are our main competitive set.

 The hotel has recently been renovated.  Tell us more.

Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary and completed a NT$1.5 billion (US$50 million) and renovation that encompassed all 420 guestrooms and suites, the Horizon Club Lounge, lobby, driveway, Lobby Court and Cake Room.  The refurbishment is in keeping with the hotel’s elegant surroundings that have warmly welcomed guests since 1994.

Continuing the natural-colored tones prevalent in the 10-meter-high lobby, and heightened by modern copper chandeliers, are the spacious and sun-bathed guestrooms offering unparalleled views over Taipei through picture windows.  With sizes starting from 36 square meters, each room is equipped with free Wi-Fi access, a large glass desk and a nook with a comfortable window seat.  A new twist on woodwork, fashioned after traditional Chinese-inspired window frames, is harmonized into eye-catching details, such as in the ceiling and mini-bar area.

A new approach has also been introduced in the Horizon Club Lounge on level 36, which has taken on a luxuriously understated feel in tones of shimmering grey.  Just as notable are the over-sized windows, which maximize the views of Taipei City.  Functioning as an exclusive space for guests to enjoy daily breakfast, refreshments or cocktails from the central bar, the lounge is also inviting to those who prefer to use the private meeting room, relax with a wide selection of reading materials or plan excursions through the personal concierge.

For the past two decades, Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei has been a market leader in introducing guest-centric technology – the hotel was the first in the city to launch free Wi-Fi access throughout its spaces and in its limousines.  In line with the hotel’s goal to add further convenience for travelers, “DigiJames,” a digitalized butler system that controls and monitors the rooms’ air conditioning, curtains and entertainment setting, was installed in the signature suites and is due to be set up in all guestrooms, transforming the hotel into a “smart” accommodation venue. In addition, we also provide our guests modern technology for their personal entertainment such as a flat-screen television with international channels and Netflix application and Bose audio system for Horizon Club Premier Room and Suites.

Which are the operational essentials in ensuring the highest standards of service?

In terms of management, we are a multi-cultural international hotel, as we blend well within and respect different cultures from around the world, and we are open to different voices.  One thing I’ve learned from the people I work with is to listen with an open heart – to listen not only to our guests, but also to my colleagues.

For example, our valued in-house guests always give us feedback, which all come straight into my email inbox to ensure I am up-to-date immediately with the latest comments, so fast recovery can take place, preferably before the guests depart.

My management style adapts to that, as well; many of our guests are regular returning guests and we have those who travel globally to many countries.  All the different types of guests have different preferences and wishes and the hotel is managed to be able to adapt and deliver great and consistent staying experiences, whether for one night or several nights, regular guest or first timer.

Naturally, in the hospitality business, attention to detail is of extreme importance and probably the key to success.  That’s one of the reasons why I personally interview every single staff member being hired to ensure we hire people with attitude and passion.  They will be trained through many internal and Shangri-La trainings and people-development programs to equip them with the necessary skills.

What is the profile of your guests?  Which are the predominant nationalities and types of stays?

We have hosted mainly overseas guests from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, US, Britain and more for both leisure and business stays.  As Taiwan is becoming a new destination for MICE, we are also boosting our business very much in this category.

Your hotel boasts a complex F&B offering.  To what extent do you attract not only staying guests, but also locals?

Our restaurants are popular among both Taiwanese and overseas guests because we offer a wide selection for people who love gourmet, ranging from Shanghainese, Cantonese, Italian, Japanese to international buffet, while three lounges in different styles with live entertainment provide guests various options to relax and unwind.    In addition, we also know how to attract guests with fresh and creative ideas.  We consistently launch innovative activities and events, from Michelin Starred guest chefs to international mixologist, to keep our position in the business.

Are there any market challenges you are facing?

We definitely face a more-competitive market now.  I see competition as a positive change that will only enhance Taipei City as a destination.  We welcome competitors because it keeps us fresh and focused.  It serves as a good reminder to continuously strive to be better, to strengthen ourselves and stay on top with quality service and products.  I believe Taipei is seeing a healthy influx of travelers and can absorb a few more hotels in that sense.

Marcel Holman, General Manager of Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Taipei