On March 18, The Peninsula Shanghai — the ninth Peninsula property — will open its doors along Shanghai’s historic Bund. Paul Tchen, the general manager, recently spoke with TravelAge West about the hotel’s monthly tea dances, ultra high-tech amenities, agent incentives and more.
During the soft opening, what aspects of the hotel are guests talking about most?
Guests are very impressed with our thoughtful and comprehensive room design, which includes specialty items such as a Voice Over Internet Phone — with complimentary long distance calls — a nail dryer in the walk-in wardrobe of every guestroom and a valet box, which enables the staff to return garments to our guests without entering the room. We also have a genuine reproduction of an antique elevator that we commissioned from The Schindler Group, the Swiss elevator manufacturer.
Do you have any incentives for travel agents and tour operators in the Western U.S.?
We are soon launching a Discovery Package for travel agents to have the opportunity to visit our property. This will be a great way to get a taste of The Peninsula Shanghai, not just to stay in a guestroom but to experience a number of other facilities within our hotel.
What exactly are the Hotel’s monthly tea dances?
Tea dances were very famous during the golden years of Shanghai when social circles would enjoy afternoon tea and the elegance of ballroom dancing. Our lobby is the perfect backdrop for one of these afternoon gatherings, which will be held on the first Saturday of the month. During the soft opening, our event has been extremely well received as it truly captures the spirit of Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s. Our event is so special and unique that it will be featured in an upcoming Hollywood movie which will be filmed at our property down the line.
What’s the difference in terms of management between a “soft” opening and the opening scheduled for March?
Managing a soft opening is similar to preparing a new recipe in the kitchen for the first time — you take the ingredients, follow the recipe and adjust until the dish is just right. The grand opening is similar to presenting the final dish at a dinner.
The exterior of the Peninsula Shanghai // (C) 2010 The Peninsula Hotels
How are your bookings for the next few months? Given the downturn in the economy, isn’t this a bad time to be opening a new property?
Bookings from March onward are good, actually. We are fortunate to have a very good product, team and location on the historic Bund. With the Bund’s revitalization project coming to an end, we are very excited about the months ahead as regular visitors and locals prepare to rediscover our neighborhood.
We do not feel that opening a property during a downturn in the economy is too risky since our owners have committed to investing in a long-term asset. From our experience, there will be ups and downs over the life of the hotel but, if you average it out, it will still be a good investment as long as the right ingredients are there. The product and the location are ideal, but our team’s responsibility is to bring out the essence of our property.
What kind of packages are available to someone who wants to book directly from the U.S.? What's the best way to do it?
The Winter Escape package is available until March 31 from $ 366 per night, which includes daily American breakfast for two and the choice of one of either a one-way limousine airport transfer, an upgrade to the next available room category or a spa treatment at The Peninsula Spa by ESPA. We also have a Suite Life package that includes a complimentary second night’s stay.
What’s so special about the state-of-the-art technology employed in each room? How is it different from that in other properties?
As we build each new hotel, we always try to find ways to enhance the product. In our guestrooms and suites, we have added an iPod docking station, so that our guests can listen to their own music or watch their own movies on the in-room television. This, of course, is in addition to the Internet radio which enables guests to listen to programming from their home country. There is also a bedside panel that controls the lights, temperature, curtains, etc.