New GM charts ambitious future course for Jing An Shangri-La
Commuting to and from between the east and west banks of the Huangpu River had been a five-times-a-week routine for Gregor Wateler over the past eight years until just a few months ago, when the German landed his third assignment in the city as general manager of Jing An Shangri-La, Shanghai.
A Puxi resident since 2013, when he first relocated to Shanghai to take charge of Kerry Hotel Pudong, a lifestyle brand under the Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, the veteran hotelier said he feels very honored and excited about his new job, which has enabled him to lead the group's flagship property in East China with a truly heart-of-the-city location.
"The hotel is very Shanghainese in that it is a balance of the new and the traditional," Wateler, who began overseeing the 508-room luxury property in July after staying at the helm of Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai, for nearly five years, told Shanghai Daily in a recent interview.
"You can really feel the pulse of Shanghai with its very special location in one of the city's most prestigious and fashionable business and commercial areas."
Well integrated into the Jing'an Kerry Center, a 45-hectare complex in downtown Jing'an District comprising prime offices, retail outlets and residences, Jing An Shangri-La, Shanghai offers a very different experience from Wateler's last job, both in terms of the size of the hotel as well as the guest mix.
"Compared to Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai, a twin-tower behemoth extremely popular among business travelers and families, we see more affluent and fashionable guests at this hotel, more couple guests and more people working for the fashion and art industries," said Wateler, who embarked on his hospitality career more than 30 years ago in Europe with professional stints covering France, Indonesia, Egypt and Singapore before coming to China in 2006.
"So, to present trendy products and quality services remains the hotel's focus and showing up our creativity mostly distinguishes us from other city hotels."
One example epitomizing the hotel's dedication to creating luxurious experience and memorable moments for guests, in addition to delivering Shangri-La's signature heartfelt hospitality, could be the co-branding suite launched recently in partnership with the English fragrance brand, Miller Harris, with which the hotel successfully cooperated on the co-branding afternoon tea in 2020.
Inspired by Oud Éclat, the latest fragrance by Miller Harris, the spacious 93-square-meter suite is embellished with its iconic black and gold elements, which are integrated in the art deco style to create aesthetics of modern and luxury.
Available through December 23, the co-branding Executive Suite is designed to present multi-sensory experience in fashionable and luxurious living spaces where guests can enjoy the vibes of staycation with the addictive scent that is built around oud and engages the senses.
New F&B products, meanwhile, have also been rolled out or planned at the hotel's restaurants and bars, with the two-story glasshouse-style Calypso Restaurant & Lounge unveiling a new a la carte menu by Chef de Cuisine, Tonino Giglio, in late August.
More than 40 dishes, combining the characteristics of cuisines from Italy, Spain and southern France, form a rich selection, bringing guests the fresh and lively Mediterranean flavors with highlights including the risotto and pizza baked in a traditional stone kiln in the Naples way, Ancona's speciality Trippa All'Anconetana, Tuscany-style Cacciucco, Milanese-style Iberico Pork, Beer Chicken, and Italian classic Limoncello Semi Freddo.
And at The 1515 West Bar, where an Old Shanghai movie vibe meets classic American bar and grill décor, a Christmas campaign will soon kick off under the theme of "Enchanted Wonder," with red, green and golden ornaments and festive beverage and snacks, enabling guests to have a brief "magic" escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
The Miracle Bar, scheduled to pop up on November 17 until the end of the year, will provide a specially designed festive menu, including cocktails and snacks, from traditional drinks like Mulled Wine and Eggnog to holiday-inspired cocktails such as The Christmas Present, Santa's Milk & Cookies, etc.
"The hotel has much regard for leisure domestic travelers, offering packages targeting families, friends, couples, etc," Wateler said. "We want to create a staycation where guests have no need to leave Shanghai and can still start a luxurious journey with a stay in a comfortable private space: enjoy the charming cityscape, healthy and rejuvenating experiences and a variety of delicacies in six of our iconic restaurants and bars."
Although conceding some unseen challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to the hospitality industry, the general manager noted that hotel's business has been actually recovering well.
"Shanghai is managing the COVID-19 situation very well and the whole city is now gradually returning to normal," he said. "I'm glad to see more guests coming to the hotel, staying and dining.
"There is a very strong leisure market which didn't exist before and we are also seeing more weekend guests from Shanghai and neighbouring provinces."
With more international events returning, including the highly anticipated Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, the 24-year Shangri-La veteran is upbeat about better business next year, forecasting a 10-20 percent improvement in revenue.
"The challenge we are facing is that we have different customers now, with 95 percent of our guests being Chinese, compared with 60 percent before the pandemic," Wateler said. "We have to change our products to cater to Chinese likes, we have to change our prices and distribution, as the Chinese are more digital...and being a true Asia company allows us to fulfill these needs."
In his spare time, the German likes to walk around the city, wandering on local routes, discovering interesting sights and trying new restaurants and cafes. He is also a fan of outdoor activities, especially surfing and triathlon. A passionate traveler, he has been to various parts of the country, including Xinjiang, Guangxi, Henan, and Jilin, with Yunnan a personal favorite.