The Perfect Blend
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-29 10:43

Swisstel Grand Shanghai is right in the center of the city, a 29-storey building in Jing'an district just steps away from tourist-friendly Nanjing Xilu.

"Guests don't want to be in the middle of an industrial zone, so the location has to have some external attributes surrounding it such as shopping malls, independent bars, restaurants and easily accessible transportation," says General Manager Julian van den Bogaerde.

The Perfect Blend

True to this principle, malls like Citic Square, Plaza 66 and Sogo Shopping Plaza as well as Jing'an Temple, Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Grand Theater are all just a stone's throw away.

But the perfect Central Business District location also suggests furious competition with other five-star hotels in the area. What gives Swisstel its edge is its reliance on traditional hospitality.

"We integrate Swiss hospitality with local culture and flavors," says van den Bogaerde, who is also the regional vice president of the chain's China operations.

"The Swisstel brand reflects the finest traditions of Swiss hospitality - excellent quality, genuine hospitality, intuitive reliability, and most importantly, we focus on the local community."

Swiss touches are evident the moment one steps inside the lobby. A specially made clock with four faces showing the time in four major cities around the world welcomes guests with its cheerful ticking sound.

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The Swiss have a strong reputation for being good hosts, a reputation forged in the mid-19th century when the country became the playground of Europe and its hotels began to attract the attention of the rest of the world.

Swisstel Grand Shanghai sits in the CBD location of the busy Jing'an district.

"Swisstel maintains these traditions by utilizing, wherever possible, nature and authentic materials in both design and construction of its hotels, equipping them with the latest technology, and providing a service quality that is based on honesty, sincerity and genuinely warm hospitality," says van den Bogaerde.

A metal embossed sketch of the streets around Jing'an district adds some local color and ties the hotel closer to the community in which it sits. Similar patterns and drawings can be found in various corners of the 467-room hotel.

"A hotel without a local community is not a real hotel for us," says van den Bogaerde. "To have a living and breathing hotel is really very important. We reach out to the local community and welcome them, otherwise we're just some building struck in the middle of the city."

Whereas local residents are often turned off by the sight of a big hotel with its imposing architecture and uniformed doormen, Swisstel Grand Shanghai sets out to welcomes them to "come to have a look" with open arms and smiling service, according to the GM.

"It you attract the local community, then isn't the experience, from the guest's point of view, more enriched by having that crossroad and mishmash of different people using a hotel?"

"Even when overseas guests come to visit Shanghai, they really don't want to stay in a place that's just a stereotype, a reproduction of what they get back home and we set out to create a sense of 'place' so you know where you are."

The brand also has hotels in Beijing, Kunshan and Foshan. It attempts to blend these local cultures into its respective branches, such as by incorporating the history of Beijing, the resort feel of Kunshan and the martial arts legacy of Foshan.

"Each Swisstel tends to have a different look and feel, but they are reflections of where you are," says van den Bogaerde.

The Perfect Blend

The Perfect Blend