Polishing a desert jewel

By Guo Shuhan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-27 09:25
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Polishing a desert jewel

Patrick Ritter, general manager of Kempinski Hotel, Yinchuan.[China Daily]

Veteran hotelier gets ready to open the Ningxia Hui autonomous region's first international five-star hotel. Guo Shuhan reports

Patrick Ritter never thought he would return to China when he left 6 years ago after a successful stint at the Kempinski Hotel, Beijing Lufthansa Center.

"If I had learned Chinese then, my life would be much easier today," the general manager of Kempinski Hotel, Yinchuan, says, laughing.

Ritter, a veteran hotelier with more than two decades in the business, has embarked on a new journey to establish not just the Kempinski Group's 13th hotel but also to create a landmark - the first international five-star hotel, in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

The high-end hotel, set to open in May, boasts 409 rooms, including presidential and diplomatic suites.

The restaurants, including the ever popular Paulaner Brauhaus with its in-house microbrewery, offer a range of international cuisine, besides Chinese food.

The hotel also has an exclusive wine room with more than 1,000 bottles. An evening lounge and restaurant above the Chinese restaurant will feature live jazz, a wide variety of cocktails and multi-course menus.

Polishing a desert jewel

"We predict an increasing traffic of businessmen traveling to Ningxia," Ritter says. "And Kempinski is internationally known for giving its guests a unique hotel experience."

The hotelier, who is in his late 40s, says that Yinchuan previously wasn't once no part of his vocabulary. But he has fallen in love with the city since he started working with his team last August.

Located in the middle of the southwestern Ningxia Plain, Yinchuan is sheltered from the deserts of Mongolia by the high ranges of the Helan Mountain to its west. The Yellow River runs through the city from southwest to northeast.

"I can feel the enthusiasm of the people here. Although it's surrounded by deserts, the city is green with plenty of parks and trees," Ritter says.

More than 600 trees will be planted on the Kempinski Hotel Yinchuan's property so that it fits into the surroundings.

After working and traveling in fast-track Chinese cities, Ritter is savoring the slower pace of life in Yinchuan. He is particularly impressed by the residents' hospitality and believes the hotel's staff, recruited mostly from Yinchuan, will make every guest feel special.

"Our goal is to groom current and potential employees for future career opportunities within the group, not just in China but in the world."

The breathtaking Helan Mountain rock paintings, which reportedly date back 10,000 years, are a precious Yinchuan heritage. The hotel lobby incorporates this art form - in the displayed works.

Polishing a desert jewel

Clockwise from top: Century Convention Hall. The lobby in Block One. The Lady Room in the presidential suite. A grand view of Baiyun International Convention Center.[China Daily]

Ritter knows the city well and makes a special effort to see what special features of it can be incorporated into his hotel to enhance its allure.

Free time is the last thing on this busy man's mind. His last family gathering was a six-day Christmas reunion three months ago.

Ritter says his tight schedule has taught him how to enjoy his life through work.

Motivated by seeing the many basketball courts in the city, this high school champion is planning to organize a basketball team in his hotel. He believes his energeticness comes from leading an active lifestyle from an early age and hopes his plans will benefit both the staff's health and team spirit.

As a wine lover with a private collection of 450 bottles of French varieties, he also likes to wander among the vineyards at the foot of Helan Mountain.

But the one thing he cherishes above all else is the opportunity to immerse himself in Chinese culture, once again.