Tony Colella has more than 30 years of experience in the global hotel industry. Originally from Italy, he began his career in Paris at H?tel Le Bristol and Claridge’s Mayfair in London. Since then, he has worked his way around the world, from Bermuda to Jordan, Australia, Brunei and China. In August, Colella moved from Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental to Sofitel Dongguan Humen Oriental, taking on the same role of general manager. He spoke with CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about his passion for hotel property development, and what hotels can do to make business travelers feel settled.
Q: How are your diverse hospitality experiences helping you in your new role at Sofitel Dongguan?
A: As a general manager, I’ve always been involved in conceptualizing and building hotel projects. I have helped develop 16 hotels in seven countries, and most of these have been in China. Even though I started my position at Sofitel in Humen in August, I have been involved since 2005. That was when we began coming up with the hotel’s design concept and a lot of the preparation work. For this 63-floor building, I put my property development experience and extensive knowledge of Sofitel’s brand to work. I believe we have built a Dongguan luxury hotel that’s ahead of its time, but still blends in with local culture.
Q:How did you become involved with developing hotel properties?
A: Originally, I studied medicine and economics in Italy. Then, I began learning a number of languages – German, French and English. After that, I studied hotel management in Rome and began my career in Paris at H?tel Le Bristol. After a few years there and at Claridge’s in London, I ended up going to Bermuda. Not long after, I helped build my first hotel in Aqaba, a port town in the south of Jordan, and that’s when I realized I’m a creative guy with a variety of abilities. I like working with hotel owners and developers, finding out what they want, and then working with architects on the concepts and logistics.
Q: What has your experience been like in helping to build Sofitel Dongguan?
A: It’s been very challenging and time consuming. If you build a hotel in, say, Australia or Europe, contractors and tradesman tend to have more refined skills and they understand designs better. In China you have to hire more staff to train contractors, and for the structure itself, you need a lot of quality control. It’s been getting better, though. I’ve been involved with building hotels in China since 1991. Tradesmen are becoming more qualified, though it is limited since the country is so huge.
Q: Many of your customers are business travelers and conference participants. What kind of facilities does Sofitel Dongguan offer to help them unwind?
A: We have a large, 380 square-meter indoor pool, a fully-equipped gym, steam and sauna facilities, as well as a spa and outdoor Jacuzzi. There is also a night club, a Japanese restaurant and an all-day dining venue on the 61st floor, which offers a very exciting panoramic view of Dongguan.
Q: How does your hotel help business travelers feel more settled?
A: Dongguan is China’s textile manufacturing capital. A lot of our business travelers come here to conduct quality control inspections and negotiate deals. As such, we have a lot of long-staying guests, and Club Millésime – a luxury executive lounge taking up the entire 59th floor – can help business travelers settle in. It has a library, lounge, state-of-the-art business facilities and also a movie area that provides a feeling of home.