It’s been said that the toughest industry in the world to succeed in is the restaurant business. If that’s indeed the case, maintaining a prosperous hotel has to come in a close second place. To be able to juggle customers’ expectations with employee needs and demands of the 21st century while keeping the highest standards in your trade is a feat not for the faint. While Forbes Travel Guide’s own Star Ratings honor the properties as a whole, The Hotelier Awards China was created as a long-overdue gesture to recognize the individuals who go above and beyond when it comes to creating unforgettable hotel experiences.
The inaugural ceremony will take place at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong on December 11, but applications for nominations in 15 categories — areas range from GM of the Year and Human Resource Hotelier of the Year, to Concierge Hotelier of the Year and Most Popular Hotelier — must be submitted by August 31. Forbes Travel Guide, a sponsor of the event, recently spoke to Stephane de Montgros, the Hotelier Awards China cofounder, and Yona He, an awards judge and FTG’s senior vice president of Asia Pacific and Oceania, to learn more about Chinese tourism, the Hotelier Awards’ timing and exactly what they’re looking for in recipients.
The hotel industry is a vibrant one in China. But oddly, there hasn’t been anything like the Hotelier Awards before. Why is now a great time for such a recognition ceremony?
Stephane de Montgros: China has experienced explosive growth within the industry over the last few years, and this is set to continue unabated. As the market is brimming with quality hotels, the choice for travelers is fruitful and competition between brands is strong. A vital aspect to the decision-making process for many travelers is the consideration of service and customer care provided. Hotels are continually striving to polish and perfect the experience guests receive, which is largely down to the professionalism and dedication from staff. The level of service has increased, and now is a fantastic time to recognize and congratulate this hard work. In past years, the focus was on creating lavish hotels, which were the epitome of luxury; now the focus is on outstanding service.
As a key member of the judge panel, what excites you most about the Hotelier Awards China?
Yona He: In any business, particularly in hospitality, teamwork plays a vital part of the guest experience. We are excited to be part of an award that encourages peer-to-peer nominations and even more so employers recognizing frontline staff contributions. Ultimately, it is the people who create memorable guest experiences and the Hotelier Awards China recognizes them in a very meaningful way. I believe the hospitality industry as a whole will benefit from this award and pave the way for other industries to follow.
What makes Forbes Travel Guide and the Hotelier Awards China such a smart partnership?
He: FTG and THAC share the same value, which is the belief that people make a hotel successful. Forbes Travel Guide is the benchmark of global hospitality service and THAC is an award that specifically honors those people and their hard work. It’s a natural partnership.
How do hoteliers benefit from being part of the awards?
He: The award is not only about recognition, but we hope it can inspire others. We hope to share the stories behind the success to attract future talent into the dynamic business of hospitality.
de Montgros:It is no secret that working within the hospitality industry is strenuous and demanding. It requires a high degree of expertise and a desire to exceed expectations, both internally and externally. Hoteliers benefit by having their efforts acknowledged in the presence of co-workers, including senior members of staff. In addition to being recognized in front of peers, winners will also receive significant exposure in media, and it is time that their hard work is publicly celebrated.
Name a few qualities you feel that every great hotelier should have.
de Montgros: In a highly pressurized environment, it is a necessity to possess patience and a helpful can-do attitude at all times. A willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the guest has an unforgettable experience is most definitely a requirement. Above all, hoteliers must have the passion to serve and fulfill guest expectations. It is demanding work, so only those that are highly driven will succeed and thrive.
He:Sixteen years ago, when I decided to leave Four Seasons Hotels’ corporate sales department, I vowed never to return to the hospitality industry, as it was quite a challenge dealing with day-to-day operations and guests’ ever-changing demands. Fast forward two years and I was back in the business because it was those exact challenges that made hospitality so unique. The irony of it all! But I mostly missed the contagious team spirit, the people, the camaraderie and that can-do attitude that is the heart and soul of a well-operated hotel. As a hotelier, no day is ever the same. A successful hotelier needs to have passion, patience, perseverance, compassion, exceptional problem-solving skills and the right attitude to excel. Perhaps a lesson or two in psychology would help as well.
Travel in China has always been on people’s radar, but is seems to be exploding as of late. To what do you accredit the dynamic growth?
He: China has developed infrastructure at a miraculous speed. In just a decade, China built over 100 new airports, earned the title of having the world’s longest network of high-speed bullet trains and built over 75,000 kilometers of new highways. The Chinese government has done a tremendous job developing infrastructure to facilitate inbound and domestic travel. The results are marveling. Domestic travel has tripled from a decade ago, and the proportion of domestic travel trumps inbound international by 500 percent. Combined with rising Chinese wealth of over 300 percent in both per capita and disposable income and relaxed visa restrictions, China’s tourism industry is primed for exponential growth in the years ahead.
de Montgros:China is a diverse country with a wide plethora of attractions drawing travelers from far and wide. In particular, Shanghai is a multicultural metropolis that attracts a staggering 130 million visitors each year. Regarded as one of the most influential and economical hubs in the world, it is a bustling city. The quality of dining and entertainment scenes in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong is very impressive. New bars and restaurants open on a weekly basis, making it a very vibrant and dynamic environment, and hoteliers play a large part in this. Major cities, along with traditional areas rich in heritage, are the main draw for most visitors.