While it seems commonplace to hear about a hotel nabbing a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award on its first outing, the reality is that, most of the time, hotels don’t earn them on their initial try. It requires years of hard work for the entire staff, from the front desk clerk to the general manager, to gain the hospitality industry’s most prestigious award. The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong shows that while the road to winning a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award can be long, the journey makes you better for it.
The newly minted Five-Star hotel debuted in 2010 in Shanghai’s newer and more modern Pudong district. Amid the skyscrapers, the 58-story gleaming glass hotel nods to the city’s past but offers a distinctly fresh and modern spin — rooms take inspiration from the Art Deco period (an homage to Shanghai being the Art Deco center of the East), bellmen don dapper newsboy caps and the Four-Star spa ditches typical bland décor for an out-of-this world theme that melds well with the futuristic buildings you’ll see out of the hotel’s big-picture windows.
Another huge draw is Flair Restaurant & Bar. One of the hottest spots in the city, Flair sits on the 58th floor — the highest alfresco dining venue in China — and gives you unbelievable views of the city and lychee mojitos to match.
But the backbone of this hotel belongs to what the Ritz-Carlton refers to as the “ladies and gentlemen” or the staff. The company’s motto is “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” which nicely shows the elegance of its service culture.
After a five-year journey, the Shanghai property finally secured the coveted honor with the painstaking efforts of its ladies and gentleman. We spoke to Rainer Burkle, regional vice president and general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, about the hotel’s path to a Five-Star and what makes it so special.
How does it feel to earn a Five-Star?
Our “ladies and gentlemen” and myself are honored and pleased by this prestigious reward. It is a real statement of the ultimate refined luxury experience for our guests.
It took the hotel five years to win this great honor. What went into achieving a Five-Star?
This achievement has been possible thanks to the commitment our ladies and gentlemen and to the leadership of our team. Any sustainable success requires persistent and a long-lasting effort by all concerned. We are most fortunate that our team is all supporting the same goals. I’m proud of this great example of teamwork.
What challenges did the hotel face in working toward a Five-Star?
With any sustainable goal, consistency in product and service is key to success. Right from the beginning, we were able to continuously upgrade our facility, listening to our customers, making changes to our three-meal restaurant Scena, and adding a winter garden in Flair and soon a new pool and gym changing area, incorporating saunas with a breathtaking view over Lujiazui, the Wall Street of China.
Simultaneously, we have constantly carried out job training sessions with experts of the industry. All the effort has paid off, yet requires perseverance, discipline and the necessary fun through our employees.
How do you define Five-Star service?
Five-Star service is the extra mile. It’s the unique and authentic experience of well-being that lasts with the guest during his stay and in particular when he/she leaves the property. This sense of well-being [becomes] a feeling of nostalgia, the need to come back.
How is service different in Shanghai?
In Shanghai, the guest can experience simultaneously the friendliness and the habits of the ancient Chinese culture as well the innovative and hyper-technological infrastructure.
What do you think makes your hotel stand out from the rest?
The quality of our ladies and gentlemen — they are professionals and fully committed towards guests’ satisfaction. As we say at The Ritz-Carlton, “Let us stay with you,” meaning we want you to remember your stay with us and make you want come back.
What is the luxury market like in Shanghai right now?
While it is a fast-growing market where anybody can find the most successful and worldwide hospitality chains and groups, Chinese customers grow sophisticated and are more than ever able to differentiate exceptional service, best location and exceptional facilities. Since the opening of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, we were able to stay at the leading point of luxury hospitality in Shanghai.
What’s next for the hotel in 2016
To keep improving the guest experience through the quality of service and the product, and being guest centered, innovative and consistent in our commitment.