General Manager – Regal Oriental Hotel
Company name: Regal Hotels International
When and why did you join the industry?
I joined the industry in 1984 and after working in several fine dining establishments and boutique hotels, and completed my Hotel diploma in 1992, then I came to Hong Kong – initially joining The Regent Hong Kong. That makes it now 23 years away from Germany with positions in New Zealand and Singapore the rest in Hong Kong. I joined Regal Hotels in 2012.
What do you like most about your job?
The diversity and complexity making it an everyday challenge in which best results can only be achieved with a great team.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
Being part of the host team and handling all Food and Beverage arrangements for the PRC handover delegation in 1997 including the former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Driving results for guests, owners, associates and our communities alike. This is an achievement because acclimatizing to and embracing the constant changes of looking after 4 key areas of the business (instead of 1 or 2 in the past) is crucial to continual success and personal growth.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
One of my previous General Managers, Mr. Eric Waldburger:
When you are angry – sleep over it and your action will be much wiser and less emotional. This does not only apply to business, but to my private life as well.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
First and foremost all of my associates with whom I regularly have lunch and they teach me things about the hotel which I do not know.
Second – young people who join the industry and raise issues which they think do not make sense or are outdated processes.
Lastly I have worked with many great people and I already mentioned Eric Waldburger. Another one that stood out as a leader was Rolf Pfister during my time with the Peninsula group.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
Regal is a company where ownership and management are working under the same mother company. That makes us faster and very focused. We are a result driven team and that obviously goes beyond financial wellness.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
Beijing, Chengdu for Asia – London and Barcelona for Europe, ensuring my children get a better understanding of China and Europe, culture and history and develop into “global kids”. This summer however will be devoted to a big Family reunion in Germany – so the bucket will remain unchanged.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
Driving in a convertible car on small country roads has always been a pleasure and hobby. May it be from San Francisco, to Napa and Lake Tahoe down to Los Angeles or throughout Europe, especially the mountain roads of Switzerland.
Resting in small hotels to explore provincial food and find great hospitality ideas adds onto the experience. The chance and my encounter of poor experiences have been very low as expectations are moderate and hospitality is traditional.
On one of those trips driving from Lake Como to St Moritz I encountered my to date best surprise:
Off the highway to your left lies the valley of Bergell. Driving up the steep, small road you find the village of Soglio. Your car is not allowed in – so walk to the Hotel Palazzo Salis where you find the ultimate combination of remoteness / inner peace, history, respect for nature, highest quality food produce and preparation (trying the spring water is a must) with genuine, friendly hospitality and service.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
My mobile phone, one good cigar per day and a small resting pillow from my aunty.
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
When traveling, I am either by myself or with my family – it is time to leave perfection, glamor and marble for a few days and treasure the basics of life. (…….with a little bit of comfort, if possible….)
If however I had to make a request – it would be jointly with Chris Patten and Henry Tang in Portugal or France.
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
Like other industries, who praised themselves for service in the past, a new generation of hotels will increasingly offer functional accommodation, will be technology and process driven to eliminate costs with new or innovative brand standards thus providing less service to meet the modern traveler needs at affordable prices for their increasing annual travels with decreasing duration.
As more and more investors finance hotels, the demand for maximum returns per area are rationalizing and innovating the traditional aspects of hospitality ensuring guest satisfaction for the new, massive travelling generation.
Of course there will always be room for luxury hotels that will maintain areas for restaurants and meeting space, but their market share will decrease as technology evolves further to reduce overseas meetings and free standing dining and meeting establishments will outperform many hotel run operations. In addition to that, luxury hotels are found in prime locations only and those rarely become available for redevelopment.
I see this as a healthy trend as hotels ever since have reflected the needs of society.
Christoph Szymanski Group Director of Projects of Regal Hotels International, General Manager – Regal Oriental Hotel