After working for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts for more than 30 years, David Ying took on a new role in June as InterContinental Shanghai Puxi’s general manager. Ying studied hotel management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has overseen a number of hotels in cities including South Korea, Hawaii, Saipan and most recently, the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, where he was a general manager for 11 years. In his latest career move, Ying is leading InterContinental’s Zhabei district property, which opened in November 2009. He spoke with China Economic Review about how to be successful in Shanghai’s overcrowded hospitality industry, and his goal of training the next generation of hotel managers.
Q: How have your first few months at InterContinental been?
A: It’s a major transformation. I worked with Hyatt for over 30 years and so I’ve become used to being in a certain culture, although InterContinental and Hyatt have similar operating philosophies and style. Hangzhou and Shanghai are also very different in terms of pace.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between being a general manager in Shanghai versus Hangzhou?
A: First of all, the hotel in Hangzhou had been operating for five years. I would not use the word auto-pilot, but everything was already on track. It was like the plane was already on its cruising altitude, at the right speed. You just needed to prevent it from going off-course. But with this Shanghai hotel, it was in a takeoff mode, so it needs your full attention. You have to make sure it takes off at the right angle, the right speed and that it’s carrying the right weight.
Q: What kind of difficulties has InterContinental Shanghai Puxi faced during its initial opening period?
A: One of the main challenges is just letting people know we are here. Zhabei district is undergoing fast development; people do not know that there is such a super five-star hotel in this area yet. Opening when business travelers are just returning has given us an opportunity to gradually grow and mature, rather than opening up and getting hit with a massive amount of business while the hotel is still fine tuning. I think this hotel, opening right after the economic downturn, offers value beyond money. I feel the rates offered for the facilities we have are not where they should be.
Q: How much should it be then?
A: I would say it should be at least 15% more. These are introductory rates.
Q: A lot of hotels have been opening this year in Shanghai, and there are concerns that this overcapacity is having an effect on rates. Are these concerns justified?
A: Definitely. I think it’s a supply and demand situation. With the amount of new hotels coming into the market, it’s very important that we focus on software. In principle, every new hotel is being built better than older hotels. What makes a difference between one versus another is attention to detail and staff.
Q: The World Expo has attracted many workers from Shanghai’s service sector. What kind of pressure has that put on your hotel?
A: We have had some staff show interest in working at the Expo because there is a salary difference and a lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side. This is where our human resources personnel come in to explain that yes, there is a better salary, but it has a limited time span. It’s better that they think long term, and remain with a good company where you can learn and grow. Surprisingly, for a lot of young people, when you explain the situation to them, they see the difference and they understand that money is not the only consideration.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in this next step of your career?
A: Running a successful hotel, and lifting it to the level it should be at. I also want to develop a lot of future managers. This industry needs people and they need to be guided. Right now, staff development is not happening fast enough to cope with this exploding industry. This is what I hope to contribute before I retire.