Interview with Mr. Oliver Achatz,
General Manager of Ritz-Carlton Harbin
Mr. Oliver Achatz, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Harbin, embarked on a remarkable journey within the hospitality industry, commencing as an apprentice in Germany in 1999. Over his illustrious 22-year career, he has navigated diverse landscapes, each imprinting an indelible mark on his professional odyssey. His voyage, spanning from Berlin to Shanghai, Jakarta to Beijing, has been enriched by captivating interactions and profound guest encounters that he holds close to his heart.
It was his fervent connection with the Ritz-Carlton brand and an unswerving allegiance to its values that led Mr. Achatz to his present role. His discerning decision was propelled by an authentic fondness for the brand, coupled with an acute anticipation of how the brand’s culture harmonizes with the city’s burgeoning potential. As the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Harbin, a distinguished 5-star establishment, he radiates an abundance of expertise and insightful perspectives.
His illustrious trajectory within the Ritz-Carlton echelons has included pivotal roles, including his tenure as Hotel Manager followed by Director of Operations at The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street. Prior to these appointments, he handled significant roles such as Executive Assistant Manager i/c F&B at The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Mega Kuningan, and Director of Food and Beverage at The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai. These diverse experiences served as crucibles, refining his skill set and culminating in his embodiment of leadership excellence at The Ritz-Carlton Harbin.
SpaChina interviewed Mr. Oliver Achatz, right before the SpaChina Summit 2023, which will be held in his property.
Could you please share some insights into your journey and experiences in the hospitality industry that led you to become the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Harbin?
I have had the opportunity to work in so many memorable locations including Berlin, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Beijing. During my 22 years in this industry there have been many situations and guest interactions that I look back upon with deep emotions and fond memories. The experiences and encounters in these countries and regions with significant cultural differences have built the important moments and details of my life.
I think the most important reason for my choosing this hotel is my sincere love for the Ritz-Carlton brand, the recognition and high expectations of the brand in Harbin and the development prospects of the city.
The Ritz-Carlton Harbin is located in the unique northern city of China. What were the main challenges you faced before the opening? What kind of special culture experiences are you combining into the guest experience?
For the luxury hospitality business, service is undoubtedly the top priority. Everyone feels that providing high-quality service in the northern market of China often poses challenges, as it seems that essential elements like “refinement and attention to detail” are difficult to come by. In such situations, the Ritz-Carlton brand holds a significant advantage, attracting a dedicated and hardworking team, including exceptional former Ritz-Carlton employees from other cities. At The Ritz-Carlton, we believe that our employees are the most crucial resources in providing service to our guests.
Starting from January 2021, our senior management team was fully assembled before the opening, and subsequently worked closely with the owners to commence the hotel’s intensive preparatory work. What remains vivid in my memory is that the pre-opening team was brimming with enthusiasm and was wholeheartedly dedicated to every task. From selecting the right talent and intensive training to the high-standard procurement of all the equipment necessary for the hotel’s operations, the efforts put in during the pre-opening phase allowed us to provide guests with high-standard, comfortable services and care straight after the opening. As a result, we have become the highly acclaimed luxury hotel in Harbin.
In this distinctive northern city of Harbin, China, The Ritz-Carlton has embraced the task of harmonizing local culture and preferences with its esteemed global standards. This delicate balance is achieved through a meticulous approach that respects the city’s unique essence while upholding the brand’s renowned excellence. Based on the profound cultural roots of the local area, we have introduced many unique local cultural experiences, such as birch bark painting courses, with the hope of bringing guests unique and unforgettable memories different from other cities.
At The Ritz-Carlton Harbin, we see ourselves not just as a luxury hotel, but also as a bridge between the world-class reputation of The Ritz-Carlton and the unique cultural tapestry of Harbin. It is our privilege to offer a seamless blend of local charm and global excellence, ensuring that every guest enjoys a stay that is both authentic and exceptional.
What are some of the distinctive features that make The Ritz-Carlton Harbin special and stand out in comparison to other luxury hotels in the region?
The Ritz-Carlton culture is at the heart of our brand. We take the cornerstone of the brand “credo” as the standard and belief for all work implementation. The famous Ritz-Carlton motto is widely used: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” It is not only famous in the hotel industry, but also regarded as a classic in many other fields, and that applies in Harbin too.
As a leader, what is your personal leadership style and philosophy? Working with local staff is essential for creating a harmonious guest experience. How do you foster a collaborative and inclusive environment within your team that embraces both local expertise and the brand’s values?
We are always operating in accordance with the brand’s employee commitment, seriously implementing and executing at every step. I always believe that our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests. We foster a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, and individual aspiration are fulfilled.
Incorporating wellness and cultural elements into daily operations can enrich the guest experience. Could you share some examples of how you integrate wellness practices and cultural elements into various aspects of the hotel, from dining to guest activities? How do you ensure that every guest’s stay at The Ritz-Carlton Harbin is memorable and reflects the brand’s commitment to excellence?
When you step into the Ritz-Carlton Harbin, from the large art paintings in the arrival lobby to the exquisite artworks in the interior furnishings of the guest rooms, the designers draw on the deep cultural history of the city and its surroundings, as well as the stunning natural beauty, the modern and the classic are beautifully presented.
How do you build an excellent executive team?
We have consistently adhered to and diligently implemented the employee commitment of The Ritz-Carlton brand. As mentioned earlier, in our commitment to serving guests, employees are the most valuable resource. Thus, we have fostered a work environment that values diversity, enhances quality of life, and facilitates the realization of individual aspirations. This allows the core members of each department to have the space to showcase their abilities, and encourages communication between frontline staff and superiors. We earnestly listen to the voices of all employees, as they are the ones who directly interact with guests. A harmonious work atmosphere, coupled with a creative and freely communicative environment, effectively boosts the happiness and confidence of our employees. Our team is truly exceptional.
What do you think of your hotel spa? Are there any treatment or wellness programs that you personally enjoy the most? What advantages can an excellent spa bring to a hotel?
We will of course spare no effort to continue the excellent experience and service of the award-winning Ritz-Carlton SPA in the city. We have many classic spa treatments, and I also love our well-designed, culturally integrated experiences, such as the DAO. At present, everyone’s work and life are under great pressure, and they are paying more attention to the relaxation and care of their body and mind. A professional and unique SPA experience is something, I think it goes without saying, that no one can refuse, and therefore the hotel that provides such excellent service will be appreciated.
In the ever-changing landscape of the future, what strategies do you employ to keep up with trends?
I recognize that modern guests have increasingly high expectations for hotels, and they often come with their own ideas and actively share their experiences on social media platforms. It’s necessary for us to adapt to these changes. Social media plays a crucial role in today’s era, and it’s important to harness this trend. At The Ritz-Carlton Harbin, there are captivating and creative elements everywhere that can serve as perfect backdrops for guests to take photos at any time, thereby adding more unforgettable moments and vibrant experiences to their journey!
What advice would you offer to aspiring hospitality professionals who aim to achieve success in leadership roles within the industry?
The hotel industry has its unique charm and challenges. As a part of the service industry, you need to deal with different guests in the appropriate way at all times. Keen insight and good empathy are two important abilities, in my opinion. Success in any industry takes years of hard work, continued patience and curiosity, and an attitude of keeping up with the times.