How long has the Shangri-La been involved in China?
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has been managing hotels in China since 1984 when the company signed its first hotel joint venture for the Shangri-La Hotel, Hangzhou.
This was followed with the opening of the deluxe Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing in 1986, one of the city's first international hotels, the Traders Hotel in 1989, and the China World Hotel in 1990. The latter two properties form part of the China World Trade Centre along the city's Jian Quo Men Wai Avenue.
Also in 1990, Shangri-La opened its first property in Shanghai, the Portman Shangri-La and in September 1992, a sister property, the Shangri-La Hotel Shenzhen celebrated its soft opening.
How has doing business changed over the years?
Doing business in China has certainly become a lot easier. The open door policy has helped en-courage international investment, and such exposure and contact with the outside world has made the local Chinese progressively receptive to internationally accepted business and social etiquettes.
Over the last few years, the Chinese have placed major emphasis on improving the quality of products and services, a realisation that in order to be internationally competitive, they must have the means to compete.
On the hospitality side, there is a strong understanding that in order to operate and run top class hotels comparable with the best in Asia, they have to provide efficient, personalised service. As the tourism industry assumes an increasingly crucial role in the economy, there has been an emphasis on the need to learn English to facilitate effective business communications.
Do you feel that there are too many five star hotels in Beijing for them ever to be filled to capacity?
At present, there are an adequate number of 5 star properties in Beijing to sustain business demand for the next few years.
However, as China continues to pro-mote foreign trade and open up more areas to overseas investment, we can anticipate a steady increase in the number of businessmen and tourists visiting China.
In fact, if this trend is maintained, there may well be a subsequent need for more 5-star hotels.
To what extent do you attribute the rise in tourist figures this year to the government's Visit China Year '92 promotion? If you feel that the strategy's influence was negligible, hat other reasons would you cite for the influx of visitors?
China World Hotel caters more to business travellers than leisure travellers. However, we have seen an increasing number of tourist visitors. Yes, certainly Visit China Year 1992 has helped enhance the country's profile; it could have been more coordinated and better executed but it was a step in the right direction. Moreover, China continues to fascinate and maintains a universal appeal as an exotic destination.
How does China differ from other Asian countries in terms of a) finding staff?
The tourism industry, being relatively new in China, necessitates basic training and understanding as to the intricacies of the hospitality business; those employed are often fresh graduates or with other job backgrounds and unfamiliar with the industry.
the support of the rest of the tourism industry?
China does not have as an effective and high profile tourism support group (ie NTO, tourism/hoteliers association) as some other countries in the region. However, it is making steady moves in the right direction and-as mentioned previously, the industry and the whole aspect of marketing China as a destination, is still in its infancy.
To what extent do you feel that China's air services and overall infrastructure hinder arrival figures?
It is a fact that there are a limited number of international flights from key cities of the world to China and this obviously has an impact on arrival figures. As China continues with its open door policy it needs to improve upon its existing infrastructure facilities as well as expand to meet increased growth.
Do you think the procrastinations over the Honk Kong airport will affect arrival figures?
For many travellers, particularly long haul, a visit to Hong Kong is linked to a visit to China and vice-versa; consequently a steady in-crease in the number of tourist arrivals in Hong Kong is good news for the mainland. There are proponents for and against the new Hong Kong airport but the overriding factor is that, yes, improved airport facilities are needed, particularly with the development boom in southern China. Consequently, any long term procrastination over this issue is not good for business. *