Shanghai Hospitality Leaders Tackle Issues of HR, Over Supply and Destination Branding

Travel News Asia Friday, 20 July 2007

For the first time in China, the popular Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Asia Pacific conference series, ‘Asia Connect’ was held in Shanghai.

In late June, delegates including General Managers, Directors of Marketing and Sales and Human Resource directors from leading hotels in Shanghai gathered to address several challenging issues such as ‘Managing Well in the Face of HR and Other Employee Issues’, ‘Keeping Your Balance in an Over Supply Market’ and ‘Destination Branding’.

Speakers at the event brought attention to a looming buyers market, called on leaders to attract future consumers by confronting conventional marketing wisdom, addressed human resource challenges and stated the need for co-operation with tourism leaders drive leisure business and to bring back the old romance of Shanghai.

The content for the conference was derived from a HSMAI Asia Pacific-IBHS industry survey, ‘What Keeps You Up at Nights?’ which in May 2007 polled opinion from Shanghai’s hoteliers. Key findings from the survey were presented at the conference by William Hall GM, Hotel Equatorial Shanghai and Chairman of IBHS.

“The purpose of this survey was to gain a better understanding of what the key concerns are for hospitality professionals in Shanghai”, said Hall. “From the survey responses, three common themes were apparent: ‘manpower challenges’; the ‘changing competitive landscape’ due to Shanghai’s huge increase in new room supply for 2006- 2009; and the need for a ‘creative destination marketing campaign’ to generate new demand and repeat visits to our city.”

The event was organized in partnership with the International Branded Hotels of Shanghai (IBHS). Michael Meade, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing for Jin Jiang Int'l Hotel Management Company Ltd and a founding board member of HSMAI Asia Pacific emphasized in his welcome speech that, “HSMAI’s key role is to provide resources to support hospitality sales and marketing professionals at all levels if their career and by hosting Asia Connect in Shanghai together with IBHS, we have created a forum where industry issues can be addressed and opportunities explored.”

Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, the President and CEO of HSMAI, delivered the keynote presentation 'Preparing for Your New Competitive Landscape’.

Gilbert presented recent statistics gathered from sources including the UNWTO and Hotel Benchmark – Smith Travel Research on the market performance of hotels in key Asia Pacific cities that seem to indicate that Shanghai is losing tourism arrivals within China and to other destination markets such as Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mumbai. To qualify this observation, Gilbert highlighted global tourism trends in terms of the growth in occupancy (OCC) and in average rate (ADR) for the full year 2006 as compared to 2005. According to the HotelBenchmark, Beijing registered a growth of 10% in ADR, while Shanghai’s ADR was almost unchanged and its OCC declined by 2.7%.

Gilbert envisages a buyers market is looming for Shanghai. He offered delegates ten ways to prepare for it, including: build the best team in the market; perfect your strategic planning process; plan by marketing segment; be a leader; and notably: Everybody Sell – Sales & Marketing is a Discipline, not a Department.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, Founder of SHY Ventures and Wired in Travel (WIT), challenged the conference participants to think outside of conventional wisdom. “There are some who believe that the climate change issue will also affect the way people travel and how they will choose their destinations and hotels. We need to help our customers make informed choices by being informed ourselves.”

Siew Hoon touched on the need be in tune with societal issues and emphasized that savvy marketing professionals could appeal to this cause-sensitive market with the right message and value proposition.

To illustrate how lifestyle trends and new consumer behaviour should impact the direction and focus of hospitality marketing and sales effort, Siew Hoon said, “Our future depends on being wired to the future consumer in every sense of the word – wired to their changing needs and  desires and wired to them through all communication channels. We have to think of ways to engage these digital natives who live in virtual worlds, play video games and spend more time on social networking sites like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook than in school halls. 

‘Battle for the Best’, the final session of the day, was moderated by Christine Toguchi, Managing Director – HSMAI Asia Pacific and MacroVision Network. The session panelists were Angeli Kwauk, Director of Human Resources - Grand Hyatt Shanghai, Lawrence Lee, Sr. Vice President, Human Resources - Jin Jiang International Hotel Management Co. Ltd., Lucas Peng, Managing Director- IFH Asia Pacific and Andrew Chan, General Manager of TMS Asia Pacific. While some questioned the link between HR and Marketing, it soon became apparent in this discussion that marketing played a key role at various stages from talent acquisition, employee engagement through to retention and development.

 Lawrence Lee of Jin Jiang Hotels said, “I believe strongly in HR Marketing. In HR, there is a constant need to achieve the 3 C’s - Communicate, Connect, Convince. When we are able to do this effectively, we can see better results.” 

Asia Connect Singapore will be held October 5 at the M Hotel and Asia Connect Macau will be staged at the new Venetian Macau on October 10, 2007.

See other recent news regarding: Asia Connect, HSMAI, Shanghai, Travel Trade Shows

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