I recently had the chance to discover the wonderful Ritz-Carlton Hotel during my latest visit to Shanghai. The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai is one of the most elegant 5-star hotels in the Financial District, evoking all the glamour of 1930s Shanghai in a modern tower in the Lujiazui finance zone. The Ritz-Carlton Shangai elevates every experience with a carefully curated touch, while offering luxurious services and amenities at every turn.
Below is my discussion with Andrew Houghton, who was recently appointed as General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. A native of the United Kingdom, Houghton began his hotelier’s career in Hotel and Catering Institutional Management in Cambridge and earned his spurs as a junior employee gaining experience of hotel operations as a waiter, receptionist and front of house manager. Prior to his current post as GM at the Ritz-Carlton, Houghton served roles as Brand Executive at Marriott International Headquarters in the USA, a General Manager position at the JW Marriott Hotel, Mirage City Golf Club, Cairo, as well as a previous stint in Shanghai as General Manager of JW Marriott Hotel and Marriott Executive Apartments.
A theme throughout Houghton’s career has been exploring the needs of guests and developing new products and offerings to meet the ever evolving requirements of modern travelers.
How do you define the art of welcoming at the Ritz Carlton Shanghai?
At the Ritz Carlton Shanghai, we have 3 steps of service. First, we give them a warm, sincere greeting. We give them the feeling that they are welcome in someone’s home. We then give them a fond farewell and say, “Thank you for staying.” Then we add one more step: we ask them if there is anything more we can do to make their stay more enjoyable.
As with any international hotel, what we try to do is understand where people are coming from so you can give them the welcome that they deserve and expect. For example, I speak English as my first language, but I would always say ‘Nihao’ to welcome someone in the Mandarin language, and then I would say “Welcome.” We have guests from all over the world, and we strive to replicate what they perceive as a warm welcome.
How do you bring out the best of your team in order to create a wonderful experience for your guests?
We make sure to take care of all of our ladies and gentlemen. We refer to all of ourselves as ladies and gentlemen. We make sure we look after them and that they feel comfortable and confident. We make sure they have been trained well. We take care of what they need because we know that once we have taken care of what they need, they will take care of what our guests need. So that’s what we do all the time.
We give a sense of empowerment to all of our ladies and gentlemen. We allow them to do whatever it takes to make sure a guest really feels special. Let me give you an example: yesterday, Acorn, who works at the front desk, noticed a guest was going out, and she handed this guest an umbrella. The guest thought it was very strange to be given this umbrella because it wasn’t raining at the time. Acorn said to the guest, “But today is a very hot day, and the sun is very powerful. You need to carry the umbrella to protect yourself. This guest came back and said, “I can’t believe they gave me an umbrella even though it wasn’t raining.” Every single day, 412 of us create the same type of ‘Wow’ stories in our unique way.
In our organization, we all carry this card, which has our credo on it. It has our steps of service and our gold standard on it. Every single day, in every single hotel, we make sure we follow exactly the same gold standard. We refer to ourselves as ladies and gentlemen, so we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. And it’s something that is very powerful because clients who like our brand often comment on how consistent we are in the way we deliver a wonderful stay for them.
Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.