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.
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