An interview with Mr. Patrick Weder, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an
An obvious luxury benchmark in the city, The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an integrates the high quality bespoke services of the brand into the rich cultural heritage of this time-honored city. The hotel’s General Manager is a Swiss with over two decades of hospitality industry experience in different countries. Mr. Patrick Weder has held various key management roles in different Ritz-Carlton properties across the world, including Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mainland China. During his post as the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Xi’an, he continues to lead his team to greater heights of excellence, elevating standards of service and luxury hospitality in Xi’an.
During the pandemic outburst, the hotel suspended services as all other hotels did. After reopening, it has witnessed even more people coming than before. Meanwhile, when the entire hotel spa industry is challenged by outsourcing, the Ritz-Carlton Spa Xi’an continues to see an endless stream of customers. So what are the operation concepts and business strategies behind the success? SpaChina invited Patrick to share with us how he manages to lead the hotel and the hotel spa to continually move forward, particularly during the pandemic and post-pandemic period.
Ritz-Carlton in Xi’an is probably the top city hotel in the city. What do you think are the advantages that the Ritz-Carlton has in the market?
I’ll put it in perspective of the past year after the outburst of Covid-19. What is the perception of luxury hotel? Especially in the time right after the outbreak I think it was a combination of quality and trust. After the pandemic, people want to have a brand they can trust. We have really gained part of the market due to their trust, as we focused on delivering our customer’s needs. We invested in the things that guests care about most during this post-pandemic period, such as hygiene, cleaning procedures and food safety. We rebuilt upon that key focus areas and we have gained the market’s trust. So I think this is really what we say, “the trust in the brand”. It is “word of mouth” that actually drives the business.
Why is spa essential to five star hotels and resorts? What is the value, particularly because they are not necessarily very profitable, in terms of the overall running of the operations?
You touched on a interesting point. As I said, we just reopened and the question is very notable when you operate. You open up a large space. The owners invest in it and they want to make return on their investment. The SPA is part of the customer experience that stay in the hotel, but given we have a large portion of business traveler that might be more limited in time, we actually drive more business from the local community. Ultimately we are here to manange the SPA and therefore is a source of revenue as well must be run profitable.
Related to the local community we do feature a series of activites for our members ranging from kids days to new product launches as well as other activites to engage with our customer and building a strong relationship. These activites, that sometimes are more for marketing purposes to help us to capture more market awareness and are not for an immediate commercial purpose but eventually build loyalty and therefore delivery eventually our business goals.
You have a lot of international experience and I’m interested in the perception that you have about Chinese guests versus guests in other parts of the world. What are the special characteristics and requirements that, from a general perspective, you would see from Chinese guests?
Our spectrum of customers is very broad, ranging from very young people at the age of 25, going up to above 50. I would say, right now, our customers are extremely knowledge-able. They have been staying in the world top hotels and destination, hence I would not specially say there are special charateristcs besides that they are consistenly looking for new experiences and the highest levels of service. I truly enjoy engaging with our customers and we do believe the luxury markets is here to continue to grow and especially in China I do believe the demografics are getting younger and younger. When I engage with them they will be very knowledgeable and it is very refreshing since you feel that appreciation from their side when you give them quality offerings. We can see that the luxury customer in China has such a broad spectrum of offerings and defintely continues to become more and more sofisticated.