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COVER STORY: Developing leadership in hospitality. Interview with Stephan Kapek, Area Manager of Shangri-La Group and General Manager of China World Hotel, Beijing
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Developing leadership in hospitality

在酒店业中提升领导力

Interview with Stephan Kapek, Area Manager of Shangri-La Group and General Manager of China World Hotel, Beijing

专访北京中国大饭店总经理及香格里拉酒店集团区域经理Stephan Kapek先生

 MG 3204 600x900China World Hotel, Beijing, is one of the most emblematic hotels in China that have hosted some of the most important dignitaries and business leaders in the world.
 

Since its opening in 1990, it is the preferred venue for many flagship conferences and international business events, and the hotel is also known as the ‘second state guest house’ for visiting state leaders. Recently they have just officially unveiled the new and upgraded Horizon Club rooms and suites, which is the icing of the cake for the mega refurbishment and overall improvement project at China World Hotel spanning the last 3 years.
 

We have a great pleasure to interview Stephan Kapek, who has been appointed at the beginning of 2019, Area Manager of Shangri-La Group and General Manager of China World Hotel, Beijing. He has more than 30 years of management experience in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and he started his hospitality career with the Shangri-La group in 2005. Mr Kapek is now responsible for the overall operations and services of the three hotels in China World Trade Centre, including China World Hotel, Beijing; China World Summit Wing, Beijing and Hotel Jen Beijing, as well as the Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing in the West of Beijing.

CWH Grand Garden Suite Living Room 中国大饭店花园套房起居室 17层以上北京中国大饭店是中国最具象征意义的酒店之一,曾接待过数百位各国政要和商界领袖。
 

自1990年开业以来,它是大型会议和国际商务活动的首选场所。最近,北京中国大饭店正式推出全新豪华阁客房及套房,以崭新面貌瞩目登场,这是历时三年的重装升级工程后的经典新生。
 

我们非常高兴地采访了2019年初被任命的北京中国大饭店总经理和香格里拉酒店集团区域经理Stephan Kapek先生。他的工作足迹遍布欧洲、非洲和亚洲,拥有超过30年的管理经验。自2005年加入香格里拉酒店集团先后在多家香格里拉酒店任职,Kapek先生现在负责北京中国大饭店、国贸大酒店、新国贸饭店和北京香格里拉饭店四家酒店的全面运营工作。

CWH Corridor 中国大饭店客房走廊Congratulations for the appointment as Area Manager and General Manager of China World Hotel, Beijing. What are the biggest challenges you are facing in this new position?

Beijing is not new to me, I have worked here from 2007 to 2009 in Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing. Then I was transferred to the Middle East and came back in 2015 to join again Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing. I spent there almost 4 years and got to know and love Beijing even more. Beijing is a fantastic place for life and work for me and my family.
 

One of the most important challenges is to make this property run well from a commercial and quality point of view.
 

But the biggest challenge today in all areas of hospitality is getting talent and people willing to work in this industry, which has an enormous potential for the young people in China. We are very lucky to have people working with us for a long time, most of them became managers from waiter and secretary positions.
 

I give a speech to the new staff on their first day and tell them that if they work hard, they can become General Manager one day, or work anywhere in the world. The outbound tourism industry is accelerating very quickly and it's going to continue for the next 10 to 15 years. So we need Chinese people everywhere. With many different departments, we need people to work in finance, restaurants, housekeeping, kitchen, front office, public relations, marketing, etc…
 

We need to do a better job to convince young people in China to take that challenge and move with it and build that foundation for hospitality here. 50 of our company’s hotels are in China, so that already explains how important China is for us. Our first hotel in China was in 1984 in Hangzhou. The second hotel was Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing, in 1987 at a time when nobody else would run hotels in China. So the foresight of our owners was tremendous. They want to bring Shangri-La to China, which was founded in 1971 in Singapore.
 

We have built this reputation in China of being one of the top luxury brands in the hospitality sector.

CWH Horizon Club 20F 中国大饭店20层豪华阁俱乐部首先祝贺您被任命为北京中国大饭店总经理和香格里拉酒店集团区域经理,您在这个新职位面临的最大挑战是什么?

我于2007年至2009年在北京香格里拉饭店工作。随后我调往中东,并于2015年回到北京香格里拉饭店。在那里的四年我了解了很多事情,所以我对北京并不陌生,并且非常喜欢这座城市,我和我的家人在这里生活和工作得十分开心。
 

今天所有酒店领域面临的最大挑战是如何获得人才,而我们能很幸运拥有愿意长期与我们共同奋斗的人才。
 

在新员工入职的第一天,我的演讲中就会告诉他们,如果努力工作,总有一天他们也可以在世界某一个地方成为总经理。如今出境旅游业发展迅猛,并将在未来的十年乃至十五年继续保持这个势头,所以全世界都需要中国人。酒店业还有很多部门,我们需要财务、餐饮、客房、厨房、前台、公关、营销等各类人才……
 

香格里拉集团在全球拥有一百多家酒店,其中50家在中国。这已经说明了中国市场对我们集团的重要性。我们希望做得更好,创造更多机会,以吸引中国的年轻人接受挑战并为之共同努力。

 MG 3296 600x900Your work experience speaks of you being truly a global business leader. What has inspired you to this path? What continues to drive your success?

After my initial learning experience in Germany, I immediately started to work abroad in Monte Carlo, and I really enjoyed it. Once you start this tour of working abroad, there is a point where working abroad is a key professional driver in gaining new experiences and understanding of cultures, etc… It is the best way to learn everything.
 

But what drives me in trying to do it better every time is to develop new leaders of the hospitality. My real true success is when the staff working with me, become so much better then before and succeed as manager and General Manager of other hotels. I believe once you come to a position of General Manager means that you have had very good leaders, because this job is really tough and your leaders have convinced you to look further and keep going in your career.

CWH One Bedroom Residence Bedroom 中国大饭店一居室公馆卧室
China World Hotel, Beijing, opened its doors in 1990, and it became one of the first “Western” luxury hotel brands in Beijing. How do you feel to manage such legendary property?

The success of a property cannot rely on the historical success. You need to constantly innovate and update your services, offering the best in whatever you do. So if I was successful yesterday, it is not a guarantee that I will be successful tomorrow, and not even today. Communication with guest is very important.
 

The key to our success is our service. It is how our people treat our guests, and how we have established systems to recognize our regular customers. We still have like 10% to 15% of staff from the opening, and that helps to set up not only our regular services, but also go an extra mile most of the times.

Horizon Club Deluxe Room Bathroom 中国大饭店豪华阁客房浴室北京中国大饭店于1990年开业,成为北京首批“西方”豪华酒店品牌之一。您如何管理这样的经典酒店?

现在的成功不能依赖过去的辉煌,我们需要不断创新和升级产品。因为今天一切都发生得很快,与客人的沟通非常重要。
 

我们10%至15%员工都是从酒店开业以来工作至今,他们不仅帮助酒店建立了健全规范的服务标准,还积极地培训我们的新员工,为客人提供更多喜出望外的服务。

Residences 中国大饭店公馆
What steps do you take up to uphold your reputation as a place for elegant and prestigious events and services?

It is a combination of few things. Continuous innovation in services, knowing what is new and happening around you. For example, during the events now everything is cooked in the ballroom and put directly on your plate.
 

An important factor is recruiting the right staff with the right attitude. The attitude is a key word, because I can teach knowledge but if they don’t come with the right attitude, I think I cannot do too much.
 

The second important factor is the training plan. Our job training procedure is very strong. As I mentioned, we have a very experienced team who ensure that once we get new people on board, they are first properly trained before handling customers.
 

The third important factor is that we pay a lot of attention to employee’s welfare as well. We have developed many activities and it is also a reason to attract new staff willing to join us. Apart from their personal career development, we look after them to be sure they balance well work and life. This is maybe a key factor for continuing our reputation.

CWH Scene A Café 中国大饭店咖啡苑 3不可否认的是,北京中国大饭店是中国独一无二的酒店。您采取了哪些措施来维护该酒店的尊崇地位和荣誉?

首先需要在服务方面不断创新,了解周围的新事物和正在发生的事情。例如,现在的宴会服务,我们可以在宴会厅现场烹饪,并直接将美馔送到宾客的餐盘中。
 

其次是招聘态度积极的员工。我会亲自面试正在招聘的每位员工,以确保他们的态度是积极的。态度是一个关键词,因为专业知识可以传授,但如果他们没有积极的态度,我想做再多也于事无补。
 

再次是培训计划。我们拥有完善的培训体系,还有非常有经验的导师团队,确保每一位新入职的员工在正式上岗前都得到专业的培训。
 

最后是员工福利。我们特别关注这一部分,并开展了许多员工活动,这也是很多新员工愿意选择我们的原因之一。在关注他们的职业生涯发展的同时,我们也着眼于员工生活与工作之间的平衡。

CWH Aira Bar 中国大饭店阿丽雅酒吧
China World Hotel, Beijing, is also well known as the ‘second state guest house’ for visiting state leaders. Could you mention some of the most important guests that you have hosted recently?

We normally host some heads of states when there're large government events. We have had recently the ASEAN Cultural Exchange Discussion Forum, and we had a couple of heads of states here.
 

The most important factors are security and good location. We have both of them because of the easy access and our way to control the building. And then, of course, we know very well how to take care of these VIP customers, and they feel well with us. We know what are their requirements, plus we can liaise between government and them much easier.
 

As example, some of the leaders that have been recently with us, just to name a few, are:
 

Mr. António Guterres - UNSG (Secretary General of the United Nations)
Mr. Mahathir bin Mohamad - Prime Minister of Malaysia
Mr. Imran Khan - Prime Minister of Pakistan
Mr. Maithripala Sirisena - President of Sri Lanka
Mr. Nikol Pashinyan - Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia

 MG 3300 600x900
What do you think makes your hotel so attractive to be the preferred venue for many flagship conferences and international business events?

One thing I didn't mention earlier was that our facilities are very convenient for large conferences. They have direct access to the street, subway and shopping mall, and our conference hall is very large with high ceilings. We can offer a large capacity by combining our facilities in the area, and this is specially very interesting for the organizers of large functions.


We are in a great location; I think the real key driver to make more attractive our offer is the cooperation between our three hotels and the mall beside with an offer of more than 100 restaurants. Using all our resources together we can gain a bigger market share. If we add Kerry Centre resources we can provide almost 2,000 rooms in the same area (278 by China World Summit Wing, Beijing, 584 by China World Hotel, Beijing, 450 by Hotel Jen Beijing, 486 by Kerry Hotel, Beijing), and connected by just three minutes. In summary, if you need anything in Beijing, we can help you. We are working towards a unique and unified approach.

Horizon Club Deluxe Room 中国大饭店豪华阁客房Recently you have just officially unveiled the new and upgraded Horizon Club rooms and suites. Could you explain to us some of the most important points of the improvement project at China World Hotel, Beijing, spanning during the last 3 years?

What we did is a complete renovation. I wouldn't say transformation, but it is a major renovation.
 

For example, our Horizon Club used to be located in one of the top floors, and now is located in the 3rd floor with a very large area for business travellers. We have relocated and redesign a luxury and comfortable lounge for them and direct access to several meeting rooms.
 

We have also upgraded all rooms, and we launched in 2017 our service residences. Three floors of the hotel were converted to a brand new service residence, especially for long term guests. We have 69 studios, one bedroom and two bedroom apartment that are very popular, and we are running 95% of occupancy. We also have completely redesigned the horizon club floors that are located at the top three floors.
 

We got very positive guest comments about this major renovation. Shangri-La looks forward and continues developing and innovating. We prefer move on instead of relying on the past success.
 

最近,中国大饭店推出了全新升级的豪华阁客房和套房。您能否向我们介绍最近三年这个项目的一些重要特点?

这不是一种简单的改进,而是彻底的焕然一新。
 

例如,豪华阁曾位于在顶层,现在位于饭店三层,与各个会议室相连,面积更大,经过重新设计,典雅又舒适,是商旅客人的不二之选。
 

在2019年初,中国大饭店完成了所有客房的升级。2017年底,饭店推出了69间全新酒店式服务公馆,包括开放式公馆、一居室公馆 及两居室公馆三种户型,为常住客带来家的舒 适。公馆出租率达95%。此外,升级完成的豪华阁客房及套房位于饭店十八层至二十层,将原有的客房和套间进行空间重组及提升,每一间都可欣赏到CBD的摩登楼宇,零距离感受都市的脉搏。
 

对于这一系列的重装升级,我们收到很多客人的好评。

CWH Lobby Lounge 中国大饭店大堂酒廊
What are the most impressive changes that previous visitors of your hotel will notice when they come back to your renowned hotel?

What they will first notice when guests arrive to the lobby is that we haven't changed anything. So, the lobby hasn't changed in 30 years. We are very proud of it and we have no intention of making any big change. Our guests notice the new edition of rooms immediately, and appreciate that we raise our goals.

Peking Duck at Summer Palace 01Our hotel has been an icon in Beijing, and we said this is an icon redefined. We are in China, and our hotel has a combination of modern and contemporary, but we have a very strong Asian influence. I think it is important for people to recognize where they are and we want our guests to do a cultural immersion during their stay. We want them to know that this is Beijing. I get Peking duck for them and have certain amenities in the room of a combination of traditional Beijing and modern style. Maybe some of the staff is not speaking good English, but it is part of the experience to be here as well.

Chef YuanWhat delightful cuisines await your stay-in guests? What are the current promotions that they should not miss?

We run regularly several promotions. Our Spanish chef have prepared a special Paella promotion recently. We have added also Peking duck to our Chinese restaurant menu, and it is supervised by Shangri-La Master, Chef Yuan. He develops his own recipe by using traditional methods, and we have included in the menu of the restaurant Summer Palace in addition to our Cantonese dishes.

CWH Summer Palace 中国大饭店夏宫中餐厅Three months ago we started to adjust our afternoon tea at the lobby. We tried to make it a bit more traditional, with musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments in the afternoon. On weekends we even have an orchestrea playing.

Mr Stephan Kapek 3
What’s the critical aspect to keeping you team motivated? Will you be using any tricks of the trade that you have previously picked up?

Firstly, you need to make sure that you're handling every person individually and recognizing their contribution first, and highlighting areas where we need to improve.
 

We are a big organization and it helps us to move people around here to find the best for our hotels and them. Shangri-La has 50 hotels in China, so if we have an open position somewhere else, I try to promote some of our best staff. We also can bring people to teach our teams here and improve some of our areas.
 

The individual approach by the management team is very important. It starts from the top and then it goes down. For instance, I interview personally each new staff that will join our hotel.

CWH The Sweet Spot No.1 中国大饭店美食店一号店Are there any up and coming events in the following weeks/months at the China World Hotel, Beijing that you would like to mention?

We are preparing some important events, but maybe one of the most important will be a quite big event that we are organizing with the Malaysian government in September.

Horizon Club Deluxe Room中国大饭店豪华阁客房 大床How do you manage the area of the four hotels under your responsibility to meet the changing expectations of guests?

I overlook four hotels, but each hotel has their own target. We are trying continually to find out new ideas to target better each market. For example, Hotel Jen is completely different than us, and last months they organized a tattoo event at Beersmith. It was a right thing to do for their target market. On the other hand, we are going to have a Malaysian food promotion event in September, maybe not the right fit for our other hotels.
 

So you need to understand who is your target customers, what they want, and how to deliver it to them. As we cannot do everything to everybody in the hospitality industry, we need to really focus on a few segments of our target customers.

CWH Scene A Café 中国大饭店咖啡苑 2
What continues to fuel your passion after more than 30 years of management experience in luxury properties in prime locations?

Money is not the main thing. Hospitality is one of the worst paying sectors. What still drives people like me to get up in the morning and work until late is the need to share our knowledge to create leaders for the hospitality industry.
 

My first job in a hotel was a lift boy. You know, I'm standing at the lift saying “good morning” and pressing the elevator button. A bellboy is even a higher level than a lift boy, who only stands at the lift. My second job was housekeeping. So when the young people come today, they are exactly in the same shoes like I was at the beginning. It's the same with my senior management team. When they started in this hotel 30 years ago, they were telephone operators or waiters, and now they are directors.
 

It takes time to grow up and you should maintain your interest and dignity in the job, because it's very demanding job.

Mr Stephan Kapek 1 for COVERWhat was the unforgettable compliment which you have received from a guest and what was the story behind it?

I received many compliments on a daily basis and it is very hard to pick out one or two or three. But when a staff member went an extra mile to satisfy a guest and the guest write a letter or email to the General Manager personally, it makes me very happy. In addition we share these comments with the team and the concerned collaeges.

CWH Fitness Centre 中国大饭店健身中心Do you live by a particular mantra or motto?

That's a deep question. Just treat people like you like to be treated. Very simple. I respect every job in the hospitality industry, from the cleaner to the management team. For me, everybody's the same. Everybody can call me by my first name. Communicating with every staff member at their level is very important.

CWH Scene A Café 中国大饭店咖啡苑 1
What question do you like to be asked that nobody has asked you yet?

I wonder where hospitality will go in 20 years, with AI and robotics on the horizon. Obviously, today you can already check In, get the key and open your room door with your phone, without interacting with people. Someday we will not have telephone operators or reception, or cooking, because it will be done by computers and machines. It’s an interesting point of discussion. But I'm sure there will be hotels in the future that will be specialized in service by humans, even technology maybe allow hotels to do most of the things by machines.
 

Shangri-La is looking all kind of technologies and innovating as well. We have a TDC (Technology Development Centre), where we have a prototype of the room of the future with different technologies. But I think will still important to have that social connection with guests.

Mr Stephan Kapek 2We ended our conversation with Stephan Kapek, but we were delighted to listen all about his rich experience and leadership methods. He is a top executive, who loves Beijing and likes to be treated as everyone. He is responsible for the largest hospitality area in Beijing, the capital of the most populated country in the world. An ambitious man with incredible vision and dream to develop new leaders in hospitality.

我们结束了与Stephan Kapek先生的谈话,非常荣幸听到了Kapek先生对于工作经历和酒店管理的宝贵分享。他是一位热爱北京、平易近人的酒店高管,负责着北京最大的酒店综合体,拥有令人钦佩的远见卓识,并希望培养更多领导者的酒店先行者。

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