It’s been nearly a year since Shangri-La Hotel, Shenyang’s General Manager Raymond Teo joined the hotel. We spoke with him about his career with the group and being a hotelier in China.
You have been operating hotels in China for several years now. What is the biggest challenge here as compared to your experience in other Southeast Asia countries?
The hotel industry everywhere is a very volatile one. We are affected by political situations, government policies, air travel prices, bad weather conditions, and even volcanic ash in the air. There will always be challenges when we are working in a hotel.
Over the past 10 years, the growth of supply in China has surpassed the growth of demand. Given the increased competition, the biggest challenge is to maintain our superior competitive edge. The customer today knows that he or she has a variety of choices in any city in China, and with the Internet and social media, pricing is very transparent. We need to focus on providing our guests a consistently high overall stay experience, each and every time. This is the reason why Shangri-La has been rated the leading hotel company in China time after time.
You started as a Management Trainee and your career with Shangri-La spans over two decades. What makes you so attached to the company?
When I was presented my 20th Anniversary certificate, I told my team in Shenyang, “I cannot remember why I joined the hotel industry 20 years ago, but I am very glad that it was with Shangri-La.” Shangri-La is a company which is growing and with that comes ample opportunities. Many of my peers today have also become Corporate Officers or General Managers in Shangri-La. I suppose when all your friends work together for so long, and you form a strong support network, there is simply no reason to look elsewhere. Shangri-La’s philosophy – “Hire for Attitude – Train for Skills” has always been my criteria when I am interviewing others as well. The end result is a company filled with great colleagues who do a great job.
How have you and the company changed over the years?
I have been given many opportunities over the past 20 years, and with every new position I have learnt new things. I am grateful for the chance that was given to me and now I try to give many of our colleagues opportunities to grow as well. Over the past 30 years in China, Shangri-La has evolved along with the times while still maintaining the high standards that many have come to expect. “Think Global, Act Local.” Shangri-La has managed to respect the local cultures in every city which we operate. Over the last 20 years in the Company (and maybe I am getting older), I have come to appreciate all the simple things in life, like having lunch in our Colleague Restaurant.
If you had to name one most memorable moment in your career so far, what would it be?
The most memorable time in my career must be 2003, when I was in Beijing during the outbreak of SARS. The hotel occupancy dropped to single digits and that made me realize how vulnerable we all were. Today, we are better prepared for any crisis that may come along. Of course, Beijing was also my first posting overseas, and that was also the first time I drank “Bai Jiu”(white wine). That was memorable, but for obvious reasons I cannot remember much of the dinner where I was introduced to that drink!
What advice would you give to the younger generations who are pursuing a career in our industry?
I believe that it is always possible to carve out a successful career in any industry, and it is the same in the hotel industry. This is an exciting and rewarding industry, where you will never have a dull moment. It is also the same reason that the friends you made while working for a hotel will stick with you for life. My advice to all youngsters who want to give hospitality a try: (1) be patient, (2) learn to enjoy your work and (3) make lots of friends.