An interview with Mr. Patrick Weder, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an
Conceived as the new city landmark, The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an features a design that combines contemporary luxury with elements that honor the history and culture of the city. It is a setting where the ancient meets the present, incorporating the historical transitions of the city while embracing the future.
Mr. Patrick Weder, a Swiss citizen and graduate of the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, brings over two decades of hospitality industry experience in different countries across the world to his role as General Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an. Mr. Weder has been with The Ritz-Carlton since 2001, when he joined The Ritz-Carlton, Cancún as Restaurant Manager. Since then, he has held various key management roles in different Ritz-Carlton properties across the world, including Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mainland China. With his dedication to luxury hospitality and impeccable service, Mr. Patrick Weder brings The Ritz-Carlton’s “The Art of the Craft” to Xi’an, combining it with a personal style to embody the essence of a Ritz-Carlton Gentleman. Now he is set to lead his team to greater heights of excellence, elevating standards of service and luxury hospitality in Xi’an. SpaChina interviews him on how the hospitality industry manages to achieve more breakthroughs in the post-epidemic time.
The Hotel industry worldwide is facing a real challenge because of COVID-19. What was the situation and how did you deal with it during the COVID-19 peak time in Xi’an?
Actually the situation just impacted as most of the hotels prepare for Chinese New Year, hence the entire team was present in the hotel and getting ready to receive our customers, including myself. I call myself fortunate because we actually had all the Executive Team members of the hotel present in the city, which made the implementation of all the measures very smooth and efficient and at the same time allowed us a very easy and effective way to communicate with both our customers as well as our Ladies & Gentlemen.
At what time, at what stage, and how quickly did you make adjustments? What did your hotel and staff do during the outbreak?
Adjustment actually was very quick and effective, given the very close communication with the local government here in Xi’an. I believe they actually have done a tremendous job in communicating as well as put in place very strict measures very effectively. That said within 10 days we did have no more customers in-house, except myself staying in the hotel, given I live here. That was actually very lucky circumstances, as it allowed me to continue to look after the hotel even during the lock down period. That said actually the hotel never shut down 100%, as you have to keep a minimum of people on site such as security and engineers to keep the property, i.e the machinery and maintenance running.
As for our ladies and gentlemen, we continued with a large number of our people staying in a close-by dormitory, therefore our Employee Dining Room Chef Hogan, did a great job of keeping all of them happy and well fed with his home cooked food, and definitely a good reason to gain some weight if you would not do some exercise.
How do you manage the business safely and in an orderly fashion after the epidemic? What proportion of the business has been recovered so far?
Overall, we all have seen the trend of customers coming back, starting from our Food & Beverage outlets, which I do believe has to do with a strong reputation in the local market for what we built up in the past year since opening, but at the same time as well due to the credit of Chef Matthew and his culinary team in keeping up the strict hygiene standards, which have been priority in the past and continue to be. The changes actually were not as significant for us, as most of the standards were prior in place, such as the gloves and mask, which were already in use prior to the outbreak. That said, hygiene and food safety remain a key focus for the team.
In the meantime, we have seen a gradual recovery in both corporate business travels to the hotel as well as leisure travel on the weekend. Interestingly, the SPA and Health club business has been doing well as well, as people are looking for a clean and safe environment, at the same time Sabrina, our Director of Spa has been organizing several activities around personal health as well as kind care events that help our local guest to visit us on the weekends to pamper themselves.
Where do guests come from following the outbreak? What do you think your hotel can offer them in light of this crisis, especially in the post-epidemic period?
The Post pandemic period is changing the way customers think about themselves and their personal well-being, and especially now I do believe more and more customers are more conscious about their personal well-being and putting more emphasis on themselves. That said to start with, my personal opinion as some travelers, I would definitely rather spend a little bit more to stay in a luxury hotel and treat myself, because I do believe we all deserve to be pampered a little bit more. As in Food & Beverage, we have seen an interesting trend for customers looking for more meaningful experiences, hence our afternoon tea on the outside terrace has done better than ever. Our Chinese Executive Chef Alan Chen, whose specialty is Cantonese cuisine, just launched his summer menu focusing on light and fresh ingredients, inspired in his experience when working in Hainan, therefore light, refreshing but with the thought in mind using ingredients with a high nutritious value and vitamins.
That said, I believe the focus for the coming month will continue in reinventing ourselves and giving our customers a different experience to remain, at the same time staying true to our motto of “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
After the epidemic, people generally are saying that the health and wellness industry will see greater demand in the future. What do you think?
I believe that wellness will become even more important in the months to come and as mentioned prior it has been part of our focus already during the past months. I believe we have to continue finding even more unique experiences that truly matter to our customers and make a personal impact to them. The right environment is something just about as important as the activity. Therefore, staying in a hotel away from home, just representing that comfort from your own home, but with the benefit of the personal services. I do believe our hotel just offers that, with the residential design outlined by Peter Remedios, who has been successful in putting the clean modern design lines in combination with the local touches, that gives you a sense of belonging and relaxation.
The global hotel industry has been severely impacted by this epidemic. As a senior hotel management leader, can you give your colleagues in the industry some suggestions for their work and future?
We all are in the hospitality industry, hence the essence will remain the same of taking care of others and being the best host possible. I reckon that staying true to that principle is essential in these times. At the same time, the focus on relevant quality experiences remains crucial, either for a hotel, a brand as well as any business, as it eventually will add value to the customers given that this will build up both trust and repeat business.