Talking To: Henk Meyknecht

Henk Meyknecht is the General Manager of Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai. We talked with him about the city, the hotel and his plans for the future.

Talk: Why did you decide to return to Shanghai?
Henk Meyknecht:
I think there is something about working in Shanghai, which, when you’re in Shanghai you think “Gosh, why did I come back?” And when you are out of Shanghai you really miss it. Shanghai is developing into a really cosmopolitan city, one of the gateway cities to East Asia. It’s very competitive, which means only the best talent, the best concepts and the best standards will survive. Shanghai is really on a par, in terms of hospitality and the dining industry with cities like London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. It is really one of the ten global cities now, where it is almost a privilege to be part of that development. So anybody who asks you, “Would you like to come back to Shanghai and work in our industry?” Absolutely!

Talk: In such a highly competitive marketplace, what makes the Grand Kempinski standout amongst other luxury hotel brands?
First of all, we are a full service, international, luxury hotel. We offer a whole compound of services from dining options and meeting rooms, spa facilities, health club, indoor swimming pool, car park facilities and an auditorium. I know other hotels also do that, but it is important to state again that we are a full service international hotel. Any of our clients who want to do corporate events, leisure events or incentive events - we can provide all the services very quickly. Location is very important. We are at the Wall St. of China. It's the financial district of China where all the mergers and acquisitions, all the deals are being made. We are surrounded by close to 5000 financial institutions, 30000 companies with a lot of purchasing power, and it is important that we connect ourselves with these companies and we offer our services.

Talk: What differentiates you from the other hotels in and around the bright lights of Liujiazui?
At the end of the day, we are a European organisation, though we cater very much to multicultural events. We are flexible in our approach. When it comes to product, we have one of the largest hotel rooms in Pudong. Our smallest room is 43 square metres, so size does matter. We have a Spanish restaurant in the hotel. We have extensive outlets. Product-wise, I think everybody offers almost the same kind of concept, but when it comes to flexibility and service, as well as our ability to react very quickly to the market, I think we are quite unique.

Talk: Kempinski is a heritage brand, why do you think this is such a popular concept around the world?
I think the Kempinski brand stands for something much bigger than ourselves. It’s a brand that has been in the market since 1897, which means that we are the sixth or seventh generation hoteliers actually carrying this brand forward to the next generation. And we are trying to tell all our colleagues that it’s not only what you do today, but we carry a big tradition forward and we want this company to still be here in the next 100 years. We have a real history from the Kempinski family who started in the hotel and restaurant business, in Berlin, in 1897. They went through good and bad times, and the company now has 75 hotels worldwide, of which, 18 are in operation in China with two more new openings. As a European, that makes me very proud. But I hope that this kind of DNA can be carried over to our colleagues in China.

Talk: What is your favourite venue in the Grand Kempinski?
The Executive Lounge! I think it is one of the most beautiful Executive Lounges in the whole industry. It’s large; of course, we are a big hotel! We have 684 rooms and personally, for me, the Executive Lounge is a great venue to relax and meet with guests. There's a great view and I think we offer great value to our guests in terms of upgrades. We have a lot of guests who come to the hotel and book our entry level room type and then, with a small surcharge, they have the benefits of using the Executive Lounge, having breakfast there, having cocktails there in the evening and enjoying the skyline of Shanghai.

Talk: What are your big plans for the future of Grand Kempinski Shanghai?
I really want to position Grand Kempinski, Shanghai as one of the top five players. We need to be in the top five preferred destinations here in Shanghai. I want to make sure that all of our restaurants are destinations. So, if people say, I want to have good Italian food - I want to go to Acqua restaurant; I want to have fantastic, authentic Spanish food - I want to go to Albero; I want to have incredible Dim Sum from a Cantonese chef - I want to go to Suntime Century. So each and all of our restaurants need to be destinations. I also want to make sure that our employees, my colleagues, who are working here, really feel that they take ownership of what they are doing through training, involvement and social activities. We talk a lot about customer marketing, but I think, in our industry, we also need to talk about employee marketing. Hotel brands really need to have an active HR marketing approach to gain talent and to keep talent because the labour market in China, with regards to the luxury hospitality industry, is shrinking. It is very small. We are opening too many hotels, too fast, to upkeep the pipeline of new talent. So you cannot keep recruiting, keep recruiting and training staff and then loosing them. You need to have stability in your workforce. There are a few hotels that are very good at that here in Shanghai, and it is one of my aims to be one of the top hotels to maintain stability in the workforce who say, “Wow, I am really proud to work for Grand Kempinski Shanghai”. So it is to be one of the top five players in the market, to make sure all our restaurants are F&B destinations, and make sure that we have a very loyal and happy workforce in the hotel.