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Archive for the Interviews Category

„We need to attract more high-end tourists”

JSB talked with Beijing official Cao Pengcheng (曹鹏裎), Vice Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development

 

Cao Pengcheng, Vice Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism DevelopmentLast month we already informed about the new visa-free 72-hours permit for transfer passengers in Beijing and Shanghai. To promote this new policy, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development (formerly simply called Beijing Tourism Administration) is touring Europe at the moment. After the kick-off show in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and before heading on to Prague (Czech Republic), the delegation invited travel operators and the media to the Radisson Blu hotel in Vienna (Austria).

 

During an impressively professional show my colleague Stefan Tauchhammer and I managed to hale the delegation leader into a back room for an interview. Cao Pengcheng (曹鹏裎), Vice Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, revealed interesting future plans for the Chinese capital.


What do you expect from this trip?

 

We want Beijing to become known even better, and the new visa-free 72-hours possibility for transit passengers is a good occasion. In the near future we will be able to provide tourists with a better service and with an easier approach to Beijing. There are many other famous cities with a 72-hours policy. We can learn from them. Our new policy is meant to serve the upscale travel market. We want these additional tourists to selectively visit the best places.

 

Into which direction do you want the tourism in Beijing to be developed?

 

Due to a rapid growth in recent years the tourism has become an important factor in the city’s economy. There are 230 million overnight stays per year, and we estimate the total revenue in the city’s tourism sector to be around 360 billion Yuan. On the other side we know that we have a very general visitor structure. We would now like to increase the number of wealthy tourists.

 

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This sounds as if you would like to attract more individual tourists.

 

You understood right. But we also want to increase the numbers of congresses and trade shows. Besides that, we see a high potential in health tourism.

 

Health tourism in Beijing?

 

In Beijing we have the best doctors related to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). We from the tourism department gathered with people from the health administrative office, and together we evaluated the existing institutions and doctors. In the near future the best of them shall be booked systematically by tourists.

 

How will the communication work with the doctors?

 

The service will be fully provided by travel agencies, from picking up the guests at the airport to taking care of them during the whole trip, with a translator included. This shall by the way not only count for health trips, but for upscale travels in general.

 

Even in many five-star hotels the language barrier is an obstacle. Due to the high demand there is a lack of perfectly trained personnel. Are there any initiatives to fight this problem?

 

People who want to work in the travel industry already now have to know a foreign language. However, we have to confess that there is still a certain potential in terms of professional competence. The city of Beijing is currently working on a college of higher education for tourism. I hope it will be opened at the end of this year. Furthermore there is an already existing institute for foreign languages, which will focus on tourism in the future.

 

Currently 64 hotels in Beijing are classified as five-star. Is the upper bound reached?

 

At the moment there are enough hotels in Beijing. Nevertheless around 80 new hotels are currently being built, many of the in the upper price range. We try to convince the hoteliers to build theme hotels in order to create a higher diversity. Themes could be TCM, for example, or a specific architecture. It would be nice if the hotel operators combined their hotels with the Chinese tradition and culture. We consider the construction of too many hotels a great danger. It leads to a high competition in prices that harms everyone. The room rates are already now lower than in other comparable cities. However, we can only give recommendations. Very often the construction of a new upscale hotel has psychological reasons. Some hotel operators want to erect themselves signature monuments.


Jin Sha Blog - Talking about what matters :-)

 

For the tourism industry it would be better to have no visa restrictions at all. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

For a Chinese citizen it is more complicated to get a visa from a country of the European Union (EU) than the other way round. Of course everyone should first put his own house in order. But in fact China enables European visitors to receive their visas comparatively uncomplicated and non-bureaucratic. For Chinese who want to travel to Europe, on the other side, the whole visa process is connected with much more efforts.

 

I guess you would like to see that changed.

 

Yes. I think that the tourism industry brings advantages for everyone.

 

How is the visa situation in the USA compared to Europe?

 

It has lightened up in the recent years. However, it is even more complicated for Chinese citizens to get a visa from the USA than from an EU country. An additional advantage of the EU is the fact that you only need a visa for one EU country, but then you are allowed to visit the other member states, too.

 

If I only have 72 hours when I come to Beijing the next time: What shouldn’t I miss in any case?

 

At least once in your life you should have visited one of the restaurants serving imperial cuisine.

 

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This interview was held on April 22, 2013, with the help of a translator in German and Chinese.

Click here for the original German transcript

 

 

“The Chinese started to see the importance of sustainability”

Marie Giuge Perry is the Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Six Senses Hotels. With JSB she talked about the Six Senses future plans for China. The interview was held at the ILTM in Cannes, France, earlier this month.

 

You are going to open the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in October 2013. It will be your first property in China. What can you already tell us about it?

 

It will be situated near the city of Chengdu, Sichuan, on the last plateau on the way to Tibet. Around the city there are a lot of World Heritage Sites. You find a lot of Taoist temples in the surrounding mountains. One of them is Qing Cheng Mountain (青城山). It is a mythical place. It is said that at the Qing Cheng Mountain the Yellow Emperor Huáng Dí – who allegedly was the first emperor of China – formed the idea of a Chinese nation.

 

The hotel will be located just at the bottom of that mountain, so we will offer a direct access to the World Heritage Site there. We will be 30 minutes from the airport and less than one hour from the city centre of Chengdu.

 

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Sounds like a paradise both of culture and nature…

 

Yes, apart from the World Heritage Sites the region is very well known for giant pandas. We are really lucky, as a couple of months ago the Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Pandas has moved to close-by.

 

Was it hard to find the right location in China?

 

No, because a lot of Chinese companies wanted to work with us and approached us in the forefront of the project. We actually had a lot of choices, and we especially fell in love with Qing Cheng Mountain. It was exactly what we were looking for. It is accessible but remote. In the middle of a wonderful nature it is the perfect base for excursions.

 

So this means that the property is not owned by Six Senses but by a Chinese investor?

 

Yes, it is a Chinese investor. But we are more than only a managing company as we participate from the scratch. We have our own creative team in Bangkok where we fully design our hotels.

 

How will it look like?

 

It will be a very beautiful property. We are basically recreating Chinese style villages with a water feature and the typical curved roofs.

 

 

Everything will be newly built?

 

Yes, but of course in the Six Senses style. This means that we will use a lot of natural materials, building the hotel as sustainable as possible, and trying to keep the carbon footprints on a low level. There will be 111 suites and a few villas. Around 30 to 40 suites will have their own courtyard. It will be ideal for families or small groups. There will be also a conference centre, so we will welcome business groups as well. We will have three or four restaurants, providing both Western and Sichuan cuisine.

 

Are there any other 5-star-luxury-hotels in the Mount Qing Cheng area?

 

There are a lot of 5-star-properties in Chengdu, mostly big corporate hotels. I heard that there will be also a boutique hotel opening soon, but at the Qing Cheng Mountain we will be the first.

 

Upscale hotels in China often face problems in their service quality due to the high demand of well trained personnel and due to a high employee turnover. How will you deal with that problem?

 

This situation is not new for us and can be compared with our first opening in Vietnam 15 years ago. Everywhere we go we try to hire a maximum of local people because that is the most sustainable way. We call them hosts, because hosting our guests is what they do. Recruiting local hosts is not always possible, of course, but Chengdu is a big city. I am sure we will find good people for our management team there. Our General Manager will be a Westerner, but our Director of Marketing is from Qing Cheng Mountains, and she had also been in Chengdu for many years.
In all of our properties we employ people who had other jobs before. They used to be fishermen, for example, or worked in tailor shops. We train them to success. Often you can feel their passion for their new function. Besides that, our clients have always been very generous to us. If they see that the hosts are trying their best, then they forgive if not everything is absolutely perfect.

 

Who will be the guests?

 

This is difficult to say. It will be probably Chinese by majority. But we have also started to promote the property outside of China, and we have received a lot of interest already. Especially the UK market is responding very positively, also the German one and the French one. This for sure has to do with the surrounding World Heritage Sites but also with the fact that our hotel will be perfectly located on the way to Tibet.

 

Chinese tourists might have other expectations than Westerners. What are you going to do differently compared to other Six Senses properties?

 

We will do everything in Chinese. This will also include the restaurants. Chinese have very high expectations regarding the food. We will have the best Sichuan cuisine restaurant, but also a very good Western restaurant. Many Chinese love wine, so we will have a wonderful wine cellar, too. We always think regionally, so I think in general we will not act very differently than elsewhere.

 

But you will act differently than many other hotels. Sustainability is a core part of the Six Senses philosophy. Yet this is not very often seen in China.

 

I think that a lot of Chinese are awakening at the moment. They already started to see the importance of sustainability.

 

Do you consider yourself as a trendsetter regarding sustainability in China?

 

Definitely! We do not pretend that we are always doing the things perfectly, but we are always trying.

 

What exactly will be sustainable about the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, besides using a lot of natural materials?

 

First of all we will grow a certain amount of own vegetables, and we will buy at local farmers from very near the hotel. Furthermore we try as much as possible in terms of energy and water conservation. We will implement our own mineral water concept, which is a very strong statement in the five-star industry. In every Six Senses property we stopped to import mineral water, so you will not find Evian or Perrier there. We are the first ones who started with this. We have our own water treatment plants. We add minerals before filling the water into glass bottles. Producing our own mineral water – with gas as well as still water – helps us to reduce our carbon footprints. And together with that, we do not support the production of plastic bottles anymore. We provide our water for free in the rooms. In our restaurants the water is sold at a low price, from which 50 percent goes to water charity.

 

Water charity?

 

Yes, to an organization that supports the access to plain water. We will be the first doing this in China.

 

It is said that there are plans for a second Six Senses property in China. Where will this be?

 

I cannot tell you now. You will have to wait with this question until the end of January or maybe the beginning of February. We will have plenty of news then.

 

We promise to stick to it.