Luxury hotels are not just about high-tech hardware; they are also about great service provided by great people

When Shanghai’s Grand Hyatt hotel opened in 1999 it was the crowning gem of the city’s prestigious Jin Mao Tower located in the centre of the Lujiazui business and financial district in the Pudong area.

Checking in at the tower’s 53rd floor, the hotel climbs all the way up to the 87th, Guinness officially recording it at the time as the highest hotel in the world. With the world’s highest hotel came also the highest expectations, so whilst at this year’s IT&CM China Kongres magazine took the chance to catch up with General Manager and Area Vice President Richard Greaves, as well as Director of Sales and Marketing Amane Karazawa, to see how they ensure such high expectations have not only been met, but have been exceeded.

Richard Greaves

“I’ve been working in Grand Hyatt hotels for 29 years and my career actually started with Carlton Hyatt hotel,” explained Greaves.

“I’ve also worked in various Asian cities, including Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan, so I wasn’t new in the region and have considerable experience of working in China. When I first came to Shanghai, however, I was fascinated by the phenomenal growth of this vibrant city; Shanghai is a truly international metropolis in which the economic prosperity and cultural attractions are comparable to those of London, New York, Paris and other international counterparts.”

Possessing such a wealth of experience and being familiar with the region and its demands equipped Greaves with the insight necessary to focus on the qualities that ensure that a luxury hotel delivers on its promise.

[pullquote]The most important part of managing a luxury hotel is finding the appropriate associates and providing professional training – people are the key element in the hospitality industry and finding the right ones can take time and effort.[/pullquote]

“Luxury hotels are not just about high-tech hardware; they are also about great service provided by great people. At Grand Hyatt Shanghai we have a proud heritage of ‘caring’. We put ourselves in the shoes of others and use our judgment to do whatever needs to be done, and we strive to make a difference in the lives of the guests we encounter every day, so they can be their best.”

“International 5-star hotels in Shanghai have mushroomed over the years, so to maintain a competitive advantage we make refinements and strive for perfection in everything, from choosing art décor for the hotel, conducting staff communication training, obtaining customer feedback and selecting food ingredients right through to organising events and activities.”

Given the full range of hotel facilities, with its rooftop bars, high-end gym and no less than ten prestige restaurants covering every global culinary taste, staying on top of hotel trends is no mean feat. Add to this mix some excellent meeting facilities and it becomes a labour of love.

“We are an iconic Shanghai location for prestigious meetings and events, ideally situated in one of China’s most iconic buildings in the heart of one of its busiest financial centres,” said Karazawa. “From our state-of-the-art meeting rooms to our expansive 920 square metre ballroom, as well as 665 square metre Crystal Ballroom, the hotel offers a wide variety of premium spaces that can be custom-tailored to suit any event, supported of course by some of Shanghai’s most innovative food and beverages and award-winning service. Several events, from 10 to 2,000 people, can all be held at the same time, be it a gala dinner, corporate function, wedding or just using the small function rooms for workshop meetings.”

“The Grand Hyatt Shanghai continues the Hyatt tradition of association with landmark architecture by making its home in the stunning Jin Mao Tower, which has been profiled in a few famous movies that bring its attention to a worldwide audience and definitely help us with both awareness and business,” she added. “We have also recently cooperated with an airline company to design in-flight menus for business class passengers on their international routes, a brand collaboration that is successful for both parties. We will seek more such marketing activities to enhance our brand awareness.”

Working at such levels of altitude is something most of us will never experience, but is something that is enjoyed with panoramic views over one of the world’s mega-cities, with the occasional return to ground level to re-engage with street life.

“I actually stay at the hotel; working at this high level always provides a wonderful mood, simply by looking out of the windows at the fascinating view of the Bund below,” said Greaves. “In the morning I’ll have a short briefing with my team to know the working tasks of each department and then I spend most of my time dealing with guests, walking around in the lobby, the restaurants, Club lounge and the public areas of the hotel, as I believe in providing a human level of care and a considerate level of service, meaningful gestures that are reflected in dealing with guests on a daily basis and making them feel emotionally connected to the brand.”

“When I have some leisure time my wife, daughter and I love nothing more than strolling through the city’s Shikumen alleys eating dumplings and experiencing the lifestyle of the people of Shanghai,” he added. “Shanghai is also a story of the city that attracts travel enthusiasts from all over the world: the Puxi old temple, the century-old Shikumen buildings and Pudong’s rapid development as a financial centre all show off a very unique sense of style and charm.”