The main challenge with being in Shanghai, like any other big city in China, is the sheer number of people here. Step into Luijiazui or anywhere around People’s Square or the Nanjing Road (East or West) area and you’ll find yourself jostling with other tourists, legal migrants from the West (the word Expat doesn’t gain much respect here) and city yuppies alike; head out in a taxi and your driver will likely have to dodge other cars- don’t be surprised to bump into a couple of Maseratis or a Bentley on the way to your destination as financial allure looms here. It’s a magical place, but it’s no wonder the locals have such a strained relationship with the visitors who overrun their city.
There are a few hidden gems in Shanghai which allow you to escape the crowds and give you a sense of tranquillity within the comfort of four walls. I have been fortunate to experience quite a few such places in Shanghai. Indeed, I have tried all of Shanghai’s big hotels. There is another such place that offers perfect sanctuary among the concrete jungle. That is in the fine five-star Grand Kempinski hotel in Pudong- tucked away to a corner next to the Shanghai HQ of DBS bank It was only after I checked-in to the hotel, I realised that I have actually stayed in this building before. In 2011, I stayed here for a week when the same building site was occupied by the Gran Melia Shanghai hotel. The restaurants, the swimming pool, the Executive Lounge at the 28th floor, and the spacious foyer hall, as well as the size of the rooms is exactly the same. The only difference is that all of the décor related the Spanish owned and themed Gran Melia have been replaced with the Kempinski brand.
Another big difference is that the Kempinski is operating at almost full capacity- this wasn’t the case with the Gran Melia. This hotel is in high demand, and the Kempinski brand is loved and appreciated by the locals as well as foreign visitors. While the Kempinski is not a household name as, say the Holiday Inn or the Hyatt, but it still has that allure and glamour that visitors find attractive. One of the reason for this is the excellent customer service and the way the hotel is managed. Back in 2011 when I reviews the Gran Melia, the hotel as literally empty during the five days that I stayed there. While the Gran Melia was a great hotel (note that I mentioned the word hotel and not building), not many people knew it well and the management at the time found it difficult to market and connect the brand with consumers. The key to connecting with consumers these days is through tools such as social listening and social media channels like WeChat or Weibo in China- and especially even more so during public events and holidays. The Kempinski is doing this very well. The management seem to have learnt the lessons of why a brand such as the Gran Melia failed to connect with their consumers. Social and brand engagement is so important.
Spacious rooms are one of the highlights of the Grand Kempinski. There are plenty of nice eateries in the hotel, and also nearby to the property. Worried about going hungry at midnight? No problem. My wife and I ordered local Chinese cuisine using WeChat (Chinese social chatting platform) from a local noodle joint at 11.30pm and it arrived direct to our room within 15 minutes. I was hosted at the one of the diplomatic suites- one of the largest I have experienced in Shanghai at 88 sq m of space. In our Diplomatic Suites we benefited from additional facilities and services of the Executive Lounge. Then there was the spacious bathroom, which offered a massage bathtub and a separate rain-forest shower, perfect for relaxing after a busy day. Toiletries in the suites are provided by Etro Relent.
I also believe there are four key reasons why the Grand Kempinski is doing well:
1. Matches rising expectations consistently throughout the customer journey
The Kempinski is a disruptive brand that constantly raises the bar to match hotel guests rising expectations and they are always reinventing how hotel guests access products and services, whilst in interaction with the Kempinski brand
2. Creates experiences to ease decision-making and drive conversion
The Kempinski offers more choice, less complexity, and more time for hotel guests to consider which product is right for them- whether it is the restaurants or the rooms. They help hotel guests to make and then justify purchase decisions is a crucial function of any hospitality experience – business driven or leisure-led
3. Empower their front-line employees to consistently tell their story and sell the Kempinski brand
For example, the hotel's GM was at the check-in front desk most of the time during my stay. Anyone can go up to him and speak to him about anything. That is one of the best things a hotel manager can do because that way they are constantly in touch with the guests and they understand and know everything that is going in their hotel. This is derived from the golden ethics of managing a hotel. Many of the best hotel guests’ experiences still rely on great front-line people delivering great service. The challenge is to create an employee experience that enfranchises your people to deliver quality customer service every time
4. Deliver their brand’s purpose across every touch point to inspire and validate purchase
Understanding a brand’s wider purpose can help drive sales and build customer loyalty. The challenge is to embed this purpose into every moment so hotel guests are reminded of it throughout their entire experience. Hotel guests need to be cherished and welcomed as if you would welcome a guest to your own home.
Will I be back? You bet I will.
Classed as the ‘futuristic Feng-Shui hotel’, the Gran Meliá Shanghai is the first Gran Meliá property in China; rising majestically above the Pudong district and overlooking the Huangpu river. The Gran Meliá Shanghai, which is part of the renowned Spanish Sol Meliá hotel company with the greatest number of properties in the exclusive club of “The Leading Hotels of the World,” is a breathtaking testament to architectural ingenuity; crowned by the majestic Skyline Lounge with its cinematic views of the city. Gran Meliá Shanghai is located at a convenient distance from both Shanghai airports. It is just 30 minutes from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, and 40 minutes from Pudong International Airport, with taxi and shuttle services to the city centre. The high-speed Maglev train from Pudong International Airport takes you to a metro station on the same line (Line 2 and station’s name is Longyang), from where the hotel in only eight minutes by taxi.
Upon being told that there is a Spanish five-star property in the Pudong area of Shanghai, you may think that it would look like a typical white or sand coloured Mediterranean villa standing right in the middle of a buzzing modern city such as Shanghai. In actual fact, you may end up getting disappointed because this fine looking property is perhaps the most modern looking and architecturally stunning hotel building in this part of the city.
Known as the hotel located closest to the Huang Pu river because there are no other buildings or roads blocking the path in between the hotel’s residence and the river itself, Gran Meliá Shanghai Hotel dwells as a breathtaking testament to architectural ingenuity. The sleek and streamlined exterior climbs the sky—broadcasting elegance, commanding admiration, inspiring a world of new luxury.
An invigorating presence blankets every surface. The hotel’s rich and illuminating passion that derives from its Spanish roots radiates throughout every corner, every smell, and every other part of this accommodation. The city's eloquence is in the expertly planned décor, a loyal staff, and the cinematic view from the Red Passion; revealing a living, breathtaking Shanghai cityscape.
All 686 guestrooms include panoramic views of the city and strike the perfect balance between spacious living and relaxation that elevates comfort beyond a sensation to a standard of living. All room are fully equipped with iPod connections, marble bathrooms with walk-in showers and separate bathtubs and flat-screen TVs with satellite programming. The key thing to notice here is the strong Spanish and Latin American ambiance that is projected throughout the accommodation. Though not all the staff are fluent in Spanish (except those from Cuba and Spain, of course), however, there are lovely Spanish elements such as having Spanish Omelette, Spanish and Iberian wine, Cuban Cigar shop, a Spanish restaurant that does look and feel like a nostalgic Spanish villa and a dazzling Cuban cabaret. Unlike most other hotels in China where there is a Chairman suite, the Gran Meliá Shanghai has another Iberian touch as they have the Imperial Suite (in line with the Spanish throne), which is higher than the Presidential suite.
All the main rooms are furnished with standard Gran Meliá branded toiletries, while toiletries at the red level rooms and suites are provided by Chopard. The spa and health experience commences with an introduction to the high-altitude swimming pool that includes two Jacuzzis at the swimming pool itself, and another Jacuzzi in both the male and female changing rooms. Immerse yourself in a truly sensual experience with a long relaxing massage at the YHI spa and purify your senses in this tranquil haven of wellness. The YHI spa at the Gran Meliá is clean with state-of-the-art facilities, the staff speak excellent English and are friendly, and most important of all every treatment room has their own changing room with shower and toilet which gives you maximum privacy should you need it. If some guests prefer to smoke a Cuban Cigar while relaxing at the swimming pool or in the Jacuzzi, then they can also do this as well.
And what about food? Well, as mentioned earlier that there is a ridiculously good Spanish eatery, he Albero Spanish restaurant. Its a fine blend between Spain and China with dashing furnishings that behold the perfect Chinese Feng Shui along with a smooth yellow coloured sedimentary rock that occupies the walls- similar to what you may find in many Spanish bullrings. Traditional cuisine is tastefully rejuvenated, to provoke your sense. Though feel bad if you end up making more trips to the hors d’oeuvres than you’d wished. It’s almost to say that you’ll become nothing short of admiringly blasted with the food and the service with am Iberian smile.
Gran Meliá Shanghai has become a firm favourite when it comes to the MICE industry in Shanghai. With its perfect location, The grand ballroom can accommodate upto 828 people if put in a conference style layout and if in a banquet style layout it can hold up to 40 tables that can hold around 450 people. There are 15 meeting rooms including a purpose built conference area that can seat 129 people in the theatre style configuration complete with interpretation facilities.
Decorated in bright orange with a massive floor-to-ceiling fish tank located in the middle is Acqua, the Italian restaurant located at the Gran Melia hotel in Shanghai. Now, if you were in a place such as Genoa, Italy for example, then you would expect that almost every restaurant that you come across serve good homemade ravioli. Though Tuscans and Venetians may strongly disagree, the dish is thought to have originated here among the less wealthy of the city, which created it to eke out the last scrapes of cheese, vegetables, and pasta. The point I am trying to make, however, is that here in China it is, rather understandably, extremely challenging to find good Italian cuisine no matter how native the chef may be. Some of the key reasons for this include the lack of fresh ingredients and the challenge of having to train local chefs on how to make a perfect authentic Italian meal. Nevertheless, the chef at Acqua has done a tremendous job in making sure that the kitchen staff embodies a rich Italian culinary heritage that dates back almost 190 years.
Acqua’s timeless cucina all’Italiana creations, operatic ambiance and exceedingly hospitable service are a firm favourite with gourmets the length and breadth of Shanghai. Every dish expresses their passion; sharing and revealing to you the art of Italian gastronomy right in the heart of Shanghai.
With its huge glass walls, floor to ceiling windows, lovely detail to attention in the Feng Shui of the table and chairs, and earthy tones Acqua creates a spacious and relaxing environment for executives working in the Pudong area who are looking for a satisfying, quality meal with a wide array of choice.
If you love seafood then tuck into the ‘baccala fritto con sugo nero di seppia al limone’, - a generous portion of cod fish furnished with black cuttle fish ink sauce and lemon reduction. Otherwise, there are treats such as the ‘insalata con rughetta, pesca, parmigiano, acciuhge bianche e balsamico’, a rocket salad with sweet chunks of peach, shaved parmasen, sicilion cherry tomato, and white anchovies.
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