Interview with David Cuddon, General Manager of The Westin Shenzhen Nanshan
Originally from Australia, David commenced his hospitality career with a well-known restaurant chain and then joined Starwood Hotels & Resorts Australia as a Food & Beverage Manager. In 1993, David embarked on his first overseas assignment to Indonesia, where he held a number of positions before moving to Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and now China. He has almost 28 years of experience with the Starwood Group, now known as Marriott International.
With his excellent leadership abilities and a proven track record at Starwood, David and his hotels have received numerous prestigious awards, such as Hotel of the Year, Highest Guest Service Index award and Runner-up for the Highest GOP Improvement award by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Asia-Pacific.
This is David’s first assignment in China. “I am really excited and delighted to work in Shenzhen, one of the most dynamic cities in the region. My team and I continue to uphold the Westin well-being concept by providing an instinctive renewal experience for our guests,” said Mr. Cuddon. Aside from being busy at the hotel, David is also a keen outdoor fitness enthusiast and can be seen biking, riding, jogging or working out along Shenzhen Bay most weekends. SpaChina recently interviewed him.
How would you compare Shenzhen with other cities?
Shenzhen is one of the fastest-growing urban centers in China. It is obviously different from other international cities like London, Paris and New York. This city keeps moving and still has tremendous opportunities to develop further. With seamless access to Hong Kong, Macau and Pearl River Delta Area, this premier location brings an adequate benefits for the tourism and hospitality industry. From a business point of view, Shenzhen is developing technology and expanding the economy rapidly. I believe it will become one of the most influential business cities in Asia-Pacific. Furthermore, Shenzhen is such a modern yet prosperous city and the residents here live in a most harmonious way, regardless of where they come from. Shenzhen really is a young, vibrant metropolis that just keeps getting better and better.
What are the key factors for Chinese guests to choose a hotel and what is the average spend for Chinese guests per night?
Based on our data analysis and surveys, most Chinese guests these days will book a hotel mainly through an online travel agent, word-of-mouth effect and from social media such as TripAdvisor. Generally the spend of our guests accommodation is well over RMB 1,000 per night. However, for our venues like the Heavenly Spa which varies from RMB 500 to RMB 2,800 it actually depends on the guests needs and their selected treatment. Over 4% of our in-house guest book a treatment at our Heavenly Spa. Recently we have launched a variety of Heavenly Spa promotional packages on various distribution channels. Guests can choose to enjoy a spa treatment at Heavenly Spa not only because our well-known inspiring services, but also due to our attractive pricing strategy.
What is the guest profile for Westin Shenzhen Nanshan? How do you see the lifestyle of the local Cantonese? How do they view spa culture?
Around 89% of guests are from abroad and most of them are traveling here for business. In Shenzhen and the surrounding area, local residents embrace cultural differences. I believe this is true as most of our cliental are well-travelled. Today one’s life is in the fast lane and hectic, so our guests need time to balance their life, and our spa is a great sanctuary for this. Our guests, especially on weekends, will go hiking, cycling or having a spa treatment to release their stress. The Westin Brand, including our Heavenly Spa, revolves around the concept of total wellness, so we offer private Yoga and Tai Chi lessons which assist our guests with total relaxation experience.
How do you view the importance of a spa facility in a five-star hotel?
In today’s world, a Spa in a hotel is a must. Our lives are so busy, our time for recreation, especially our spa, plays an important role in an upscale hotel. Here in Shenzhen, we are mainly targeting business travelers weekdays, paired with leisure and families for weekend business. So high-quality spa treatments do relieve that stress and pressure built up whilst working. The Heavenly Spa by Westin Hotels & Resorts aims to providing unparalleled spa treatments in a tranquil spa ambience. Our surveys indicate that a renowned spa treatment improves the guest’s overall stay experience.
What is your management style?
I regularly encourage our Heavenly Spa associates to be more creative, to find new ways to develop new trends for our treatments. As an avid spa-goer, I continually give feedback to my team not only from our own spa but also from others that I visit through my travels. And the associate training and ongoing training of Heavenly Spa therapists and receptionists is so important. An experienced and knowledgeable receptionist will be able to recommend the most suitable treatments for our guests. A well-versed therapist will not only select the correct massage strength and pressure but will also upsell other treatments during the experience.
What is your favorite spa treatment in your Spa?
I love to have a spa treatment at least twice a month. My preferred treatment at present is our Sleep Deeply treatment with Venus Legacy. This treatment improves your skin texture and condition. This advanced technology MP2, Sleep Deeply prolongs sleep quality with its warm heat and magnetic pulse penetrating into your muscles to relax your body mind and soul, as well as to heal your body discomfort and restore balance to your inner system. I am obsessed with this and enjoy the sweet dreams I have after this extraordinary treatment. The complete treatment is around 60 minutes and priced under RMB 1,000.
Some have said China is growing too fast and has too many hotels. What would be your view on this point?
From my own personal perspective, competition brings us more benefits. Most importantly it’s how we view competition in different ways. Guests do need to try a different experience to find out which suits them best. We continue to explore the diversity of the market which also does drive more creative ideas and concepts in order to grow the business. The Spa and hotel industry in general still has a lot of space to grow in China. Spa product differentiation is the key to future, especially as we are all now consumed in the wellness arena. I see the future of the industry being very bright and extremely vibrant.