SHANGHAI: Four decades after Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai established a new era in U.S.-China relations with the Shanghai Communique, the hotel that hosted their meeting is tapping German management to turn a communist-era icon into a luxury brand that can compete globally.
Bernold Schroeder, who helped build Banyan Tree into one of Asia’s top upscale resort chains, was headhunted by state-owned Shanghai Jin Jiang International Hotels Group Co. (2006) to create a hotel brand in the ilk of Germany’s Kempinski and Hong Kong- based Shangri-La.
Its Shanghai properties include Jin Jiang Hotel, which became a favorite of Nixon’s, and the iconic Peace Hotel, a haven over the decades for celebrities visiting the city, including Charlie Chaplin and playwright Noel Coward.
The risk is a 50-50 chance of success,” 45-year-old Schroeder, chief executive officer of the unit that manages the group’s luxury properties, said in an interview. “That’s why I need a lot of passion. People believe we are still the best and powerful because Hillary Clinton visited our hotel. That’s very dangerous.”
Schroeder, who has been in the role for a year, has some challenges to overcome: his employer is effectively the Communist Party and business decisions need to be handled with sensitivity, while commitment to service is more lax in China than in other parts of the world.
At the same time, China has the second-lowest occupancy rates in Asia, and global chains, including Hilton Worldwide Inc., are expanding in the world’s third-largest tourism destination. (Bloomberg/tw)