Interview with Mr. William Chea, General Manager of Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich
With a warm greeting “Bonjour”, guests begin their “art de vivre” at Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich. It’s a place where French refinement meets Chinese artistry, seen from the chandelier in the lobby that combines France’s national flower, fleur-de-lis, and Guangzhou city’s official flower, the kapok, the fantastic painting “Fish Song” drawn by a famous local artist who spent long time travelling in France, the Parisian décor and French literature in the guest rooms, the premium selection of French wines in the restaurants, and a variety of themed activities held by the hotel to infuse French charm into every fiber.
Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich recently announced the appointment of Mr. William Chea as the hotel’s General Manager. With more than 32 years of extensive hotel experience, William has devoted his career to exceeding financial targets, guest satisfaction and talent development. Mr. Chea says he will lead the already outstanding team to a greater level, meet the ever-changing needs of customers nowadays, and further showcase the charms of Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich as a brand flagship hotel in China. SpaChina interviewed him to share his views on how a hotel can stand out amidst fierce competition as well as the key for the success of hotel spas.
What are the latest trends in global and China’s hospitality industry? And how does Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich meet market demand?
In the future, hotels will extensively use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) technology to deliver more customized accommodation experiences, beyond what one could imagine five years ago. While waiting for the check-in, guests can open the player in their rooms and watch TV programs or listen to the music. The sensors in the bed will perceive whether you are asleep or awake and accordingly adjust the light and temperature in the room. So, in addition to our present offering of personalized services, we are now working on the development of a new concept – the “intelligent guest room”. It is predicted that in the near future, guests at Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich will be able to check-in before they arrive at the hotel and have control of in-room facilities in advance with mobile phones.
What is your management style? From your perspective, what are the key factors for a hotel’s sustainable development and continual revenue growth?
I believe that teamwork is the key for a hotel’s success and sustainable development. Cooperation among different departments is so important throughout the guests’ whole experience from reservation, arrival, check-in and dining all the way to departure. We really want to offer guests an unforgettable experience with our unique French art de vivre and hospitality. So in my management, I attach much importance to teamwork. Meanwhile, I welcome different voices. The hotel needs to be updated continually to meet the market’s ever-changing demands and I hope that the diverse voices can become the source for our innovation. Another key aspect in my work is for talent cultivation. I want to see that every staff member feels joyful in their work. I give them quite wide authorization and enough training so that they can offer guests better services. Only in this way can they keep growing in their career path.
How does Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich integrate French charm with local flavor?
As Sofitel’s flagship hotel in China, Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich maintains its French origin by embracing the essence of French art de vivre and, at the same time pays respect to the local traditions of Guangzhou. In addition to hotel design and facilities, we have launched a wide array of activities to perfectly combine the two cultures in the past seven years, including French music festivals, French wines and local art pairing, culinary art journeys, to inspire guests’ hearts and soul with the elegance and charm of France.
What is the role of wellness in a hotel experience? Do you consciously infuse wellbeing experience into hotel services? If so how?
Today, people no longer seek mere material satisfaction, but show an increasing interest in health and well-being. So there is a great urge to integrate wellness concepts into hotel services. Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich is dedicated to pursuing the art of health by providing a diversity of recreational, fitness and wellness options to help guests relax and rejuvenate. Guests can have beauty treatments or relaxing massages at So SPA or recharge themselves with the cutting edge equipment and customized training programs at So FIT. Furthermore, the hotel’s restaurant presents De-Light menu, exclusively designed for a comprehensive healthy lifestyle, which offers a set of healthy diet solutions by removing processed food, strictly controlling ingredients proportions and selecting only fresh local food ingredients.
What is the philosophy of So SPA? What kind of experience do you want to deliver to the guests?
So SPA with L’Occitane at Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich is dedicated to creating a peaceful oasis focusing on health, recreation and rejuvenation by combining world healing traditions with French modern cosmetology. Inspired by a typical French menu, the spa experience includes a whole process of appetizer – main course – dessert. This innovative spa ritual brings an air of new breath to today’s savvy travelers with every detail reflecting the elegant French spirit – enjoy your life. Have a traditional spa ritual to restore the energy of body and soul or enjoy a refreshing afternoon in the traditional sauna.
Now the 1980s and 1990s generations are the main consumer force for China’s spas. What are their characteristics and requirements? How does So SPA win their hearts?
In the next 10 to 20 years, the 1980s and 1990s generations will still be the main consumer force. They are eager to express their individuality. They seek highly efficient consuming modes and they know how to enjoy life and they love to try everything new. We have the first worldwide So Spa with L’Occitane and our focus is not only on providing world-class treatments, but also about creating a well-rounded experience that indulges guest’s five senses while calming and relaxing their body and soul. For example, we offer a range of innovative spa facilities to cater to the demands of the younger generations such as So Hammam, Deep Relaxation Room and a 30m long indoor swimming pool with underwater music. Meanwhile, we keep developing new programs to meet market requirements including massages to target jet lag and post-sport soreness, and gentleman treatments. We also continue to expand our retail options. Besides, we link our spa and wellness programs to our official WeChat account and online shop so that guests can be always updated with our latest news or promotions and easily purchase and reserve treatments with a click of finger.
Guangzhou has no lack of good day spas. How does So SPA compete with them to win more local guests, and improve the capture rate of hotel guests as well?
The renowned Cheng Chung Design is in charge of the design work of So SPA. They turn the spa into a Modern – Urban – Pure White world, with warm organic curves skillfully separating socializing spaces from private areas, totally different from the dim style of most spas. Then we have So FIT equipped with Life Fitness ranges to offer customized exercise services and tracing solutions. The 30m long panoramic indoor swimming pool boasts a view on the Baiyun Mountain and underwater music. All So SPA guests are entitled to free usage of So FIT facilities. We encourage socializing and communication of our guests, so we carve out an open area at So SPA where we can hold regular member activities of different themes such as Beauty, Wellness or So Yoga.
Are there any innovative wet facilities at So SPA? How important is wet facilities to spas?
The centerpiece is So Hammam. Besides, we have an Icy Room in the wet area which is floored with thin ice, ideal for rejuvenation after warm sauna and steam. The Deep Relaxation Room helps guests continue their sense of relaxation after the treatment with cozy loungers equipped with Wave Dream device, a unique ceiling animation technology imported from Switzerland consisting of a water wave projection for a truly surprising and relaxing moment. I believe that spa facilities are particularly important because they can provide guests with unique experience that touch their five sense. Guests, while choosing a spa, will also take into consideration of the facilities concerning its completeness, quality and functions.
What is the current situation of hotel spas? Do you have any advice for the development and profit growth of hotel spas?
The hotel spas in China have seen a comparatively stable development. With the rising consumption level of 1980s and 90s generations and people’s increasing awareness of health and wellness, hotel spas have received a new flood of younger visitors. However, the challenges are, these younger generations have quite different demands than conventional customers in the past. Besides, with the continual rise of luxury hotels in China, there is a more fierce competition among hotel spas. I think the new chance for hotel spas is “customized spa”, providing customers with tailored wellness and beauty solutions with the use of cutting edge technology. Moreover, as people’s consciousness to health keeps ballooning, wellness today has become a luxury industry which brings huge opportunities for high-end tourism industry. Therefore, it is also a future trend for hotel spas to offer guests innovative spa-travel experience.
Please introduce 2 signature spa treatments.
As the global first So SPA that partners with L’Occitane, So SPA at Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich perfectly integrates time-honored healing wisdom worldwide with unique French cosmetology. All treatments feature L’Occitane products, the world-renowned skincare originated from France, to deliver pure experience inspired by the natural plants extracted from Provence highland. We have two quite special treatments. One is So Exhilarating: a euphoric and soothing body massage, combining rocking and tasteful experience to shape and tone up the silhouette. The other is So Rejuvenating: a refreshing and tasteful facial care. Honey and cucumber combine harmoniously with the best of French technique to revitalize and bring back youth to the skin.