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The Passion to Win – Interview with Volkmar Ruebel, General Manager of

(2007-11-06 15:35:32)
The <wbr>Passion <wbr>to <wbr>Win <wbr>– <wbr>Interview <wbr>with <wbr>Volkmar <wbr>Ruebel, <wbr>General <wbr>Manager <wbr>of
The Passion to Win – Interview with Volkmar Ruebel, General Manager of Hilton Shanghai
Interview: Cherry Li  Chinese Version: Clara  English Version: Sara
Photos: by Zhu Xiaoci & Hilton Shanghai
Never has Shanghai’s hospitality scene been so vigorous and dynamic as it is now: Twenty-eight five-star hotels have been opened in the city till present, of which twenty are in Puxi area and eight in Pudong, and many more are on the way. While the mushrooming new establishments attract groups of fans with their impressive architecture and sophisticated facilities, those of an older history, the centennial Peace Hotel, Hilton Shanghai, for instance, still boast a strong presence in the local hotel scene. In fact, the vintage hotels have never stopped making progress.
Hilton is synonymous with high-end hotel in the mind of many Shanghai people, and they would blurt out “Hilton Shanghai” when being asked which hotel in Shanghai impresses them the most. Hilton Shanghai opened its doors nineteen years ago, in 1988. As a sign of the formal entrance of the five-star luxury hotel in Shanghai, it has borne witness to the city’s drastic changes and soaring economy. Hilton Shanghai is in constant progress, too. It is still ranked among the market leaders, and both the exterior and interior are as appealing as they used to. How does it manage to retain its “vitality and popularity”? Mr. Volkmar Ruebel, Hilton Shanghai’s present general manager, shared his impressions and experiences accumulated over the past several years.
As the official partner of the Tennis Master’s Cup since the tournament launched Shanghai a couple of years ago, Hilton Shanghai is responsible for accommodating the players, families and sponsors. The Tennis Master’s Cup enjoys a growing popularity here in Shanghai, Mr. Ruebel said, and it remains as a challenge to us. We have spent almost 8 months on various preparations which started as early as this February, meeting with the organizers to discuss what had been accomplished, which parts were good and which parts were to be improved. The discussion also includes a rough plan for the next year’s event. It is a team work which requires cooperation between different departments, and not at all an easy job, given the scale of the event and number of people involved.
Of course, the hotel is repaid handsomely for the efforts it has made. Take last year’s tournament as an example. Despite its complicated conditions, it succeeded in winning very positive responses, in every respect. In fact, Hilton Shanghai offered quality service of the highest standards to satisfy the large number of distinguished guests and sponsors who asked for the best both in and out of the court, diversifying the food options in the hope that fine dining could add spice to the hot sports scene.
Having harvested several successes, Hilton Shanghai now places the Tennis Master’s Cup on the top of its priority list. The entire committee of various departments personally attend to every part of work, participating in every discussion and making arrangements for the next event. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are ready at any moment, to which the general manager explained, we seek to add something new to the organizing procedures every time, some change which can impress people. We would also go over the finished works from time to time to make sure that everything goes smoothly and to order, and to see if we can improve the logistics.
Hilton Shanghai’s cooperative spirit and excellent service give us reasons to believe that its collaboration with the organizers must have been fruitful and pleasant. Under the leadership of Mr. Ruebel, the hotel did a great job every year, and each year is better than the previous one. The organizers must have been delighted with the collaboration. “They knew we could host large events, but they didn’t expect we could entertain as many as 2000 guests at a time, not just for a day or two, but for a week and even longer. These are two completely different things, and the techniques needed are different, too. What we had achieved in the past lent us confidence to arrange more outdoor events,” recollected Mr. Ruebel, his smiling face radiant with evident pride, “and it was always difficult at the outset. In 2002 the tournament was played at Pudong Convention Center, where the conditions were more difficult compared with Qi Zhong. Then we had heavy rainfall, which made everyone present shiver as it was November. Wind and rain always make the situation worse. Qi Zhong’s conditions are much better, and impressive. It offers the best available courts and facilities which enable players to be their best. Not only are the players satisfied, we feel the same as well. As the Tennis Master’s Cup is approaching maturity, it has become an inseparable part of Shanghai tourism, to which the Municipal Government places great importance so it came back two years later in 2005.
“We try our best to satisfy the tennis players, using only the freshest ingredients and diversifying the options to avoid their being bored by a fixed menu, for instance. And they ARE satisfied,” added he. “I myself love those activities which need passion and enthusiasm. Hilton has a sport tradition. Over the years our hotel has treated a good many sportsmen – Barcelona Football Club, Munich soccer team, Lewis Hamilton of Team McLaren to the Chinese Grand Prix, women football families and Special Olympics participants―and the players attending this year’s Master’s Cup are coming soon. They are very important guests and the precious experience acquired by accommodating them will help improve the quality of Hilton Shanghai. Besides, I believe it is our service that support them on the sports ground. ”
Mr. Ruebel continued, “In the past, fewer people were interested in tennis. However, this sport is gaining popularity in Shanghai after the Tennis Master’s Cup has been imported to the city. F1 is also high on the list with caterings to the ground stand. My answer is, whatever we’re doing, a comprehensive cooperation and our own devotedness are extremely important. We’re unlikely to do a perfect job unless we devote ourselves wholly into what we’re doing.”
Cosmopolitan Shanghai is in speedy development. Although many international hotel brands have launched in the city, they still cannot replace Hilton Shanghai which holds a special position in the hearts of the local people. Why? Mr. Ruebel gladly revealed the “secret”, “The so-called secret lies in our persistence and passion, in our keeping good cooperation with partners and clients. Hilton Shanghai is focused on better servicing guests and maximizing the Value for Money. I often chat with the guests in the lobby, asking for their opinions and advice in hope of creating better understanding between us. My team does the same, too. Not everyone is good at communicating, and I just want to set a model for my team, hinting them to follow suit. We need to be role models in more ways than one.”
Hotel industry is a service-people oriented industry. If a hotel has a good spirit, everyone within feels good and does good work.. This happiness is contagious and capable of affecting the guests, many of whom will accordingly return to experience the hotel’s improvements. The faces of the repeat guests are familiar to many staffs, given Hilton Shanghai’s relatively low staff turnover. “Stable employment, I think, makes people feel secure and at ease, and stops unnecessary worries. Anxiety is unavoidable whenever a new general manager assumes his/her office; similarly, when I take over a new hotel, I’ll have to start over again and show the associates my talent and ability, which seems a mere waste of money and energy. A hotel is at its best when it makes guests feel at home. Familiar settings, facilities and people help to strengthen the emotional bond,” shared Volkmar Ruebel.
Successful enterprises never neglect staff training, neither does Hilton Shanghai. The general manager made a lengthy description of Hilton staff training scheme. “We give our staff a series of trainings. Hilton has set up its own Hilton University, and we invest an average of 60 to 70 hours, so every team member can receive 50 to 70 hours of training every year, via our school, the internet, or attending internal or outside courses. Our staffs are earnest students, all of them, and they have finished many different courses. Many completed 20 – 30 courses and received diplomas. Hilton University issues hundred diplomas on a diverse range of subjects, including standard Front Office, Food & Beverage, sales and marketing, etc.. We give team members the opportunity without hesitation – no bounding.  We have sent almost 20 team members to overseas schools and we do this with full trusting them and respecting them. Overseas training has become part of Hilton corporate culture, and the trainees have the freedom to choose their interested courses. Hotel in itself is a culture. So its overall improvement will please both the staff and guests.
“In the first months of my appointment, difficulties and challenges cropped up in large number, but I wouldn’t slacken my pace. Instead, I went forward to force them. Hilton Shanghai has undergone many changes during the past years, including a new spa, the Top Of The Hilton meeting floor, and the overhaul of the Executive Lounge. Our new Lounge looks great, more spacious and inviting. In addition, we installed a new revolving entrance door to welcome our guests. About twenty million people had been in and out of our hotel through the old door, based on my calculation. It was an exciting figure, but the time had come for us to replace it, given the comments we’d so far received.” On hearing these, the writer was keenly aware that Mr. Ruebel did care about his customers and always put their demands first.
Hilton Shanghai places heavy emphasis on a continuous upgrade in an effort to sharpen the hotel’s competitive edge. With the high speed broadband and wireless internet accesses, business travelers can surf the net at any time. Ethnic restaurants, atmospheric bar and pub and well-equipped SPA and fitness center meet their leisure and entertainment requirement; the advanced Hilton MeetingsTM is a powerful complement to the hotel’s business functions.
The conversation with Volkmar Ruebel leads us to the conclusion that Hilton Shanghai is bound to enjoy a longstanding success. Continuous upgrading in software and hardware, lower staff turnover, consistency in service, and an inexhaustible enthusiasm in sponsoring and supporting international sports events have combined to put Hilton Shanghai in an invincible position. In the mean time, we shall always bear it in mind that a capable and professional general manager also lays the foundation for its prosperity.
对于许多上海人而言,希尔顿就是五星级酒店的代名词,在被问到上海哪个酒店印象最深的时候,相信很多人都会脱口而出:希尔顿。上海希尔顿酒店于1988年开业,标志着国际五星级大酒店正式入驻上海。如今,它在上海这个城市已经度过19个春秋了,期间可谓是见证了上海一步步走向繁荣。而上海希尔顿酒店本身也始终在不断地进步着。酒店的外观和内部装修仍旧光鲜亮丽,在市场竞争中依然占据领先的位置。上海希尔顿酒店究竟是如何做到“长盛不衰”的呢?现任总经理Volkmar Ruebel先生向笔者讲述了他多年来执掌上海希尔顿酒店的经验和感受。
网球“大师杯”在上海已经连续举办了几年了,在此期间,上海希尔顿酒店一直作为该项赛事的合作方,负责网球大师们和该项目工作人员以及赞助商的接待工作。谈到今年的大师杯,Volkmar Ruebel先生说道,大师杯在中国越来越受到重视,对我们而言,它仍然是一个挑战,因此我们花了将近八个月的时间来做准备工作。事实上我们的准备工作从两月份就开始了,其中包括和所有的主办方开会讨论我们已经做好了哪些准备,哪些是值得提倡的,而在哪些方面仍有待提高等等,还会对来年的比赛进行一个规划,希望下一次能够更上一层楼。这是一项团体性的工作,需要各部门间的协作,毕竟举办观众人数如此众多的活动并不是一件容易的事情。
在有了几年成功的经验后,如今大师杯对于酒店而言,可以说是每年的头等大事,每件事Volkmar Ruebel先生都亲力亲为,开会、准备并期待下一次比赛的到来,可以毫不夸张的说他时刻在准备着。对此,他说,之所以要进行准备是因为我们要加入新的元素到比赛的组织工作中去,我们一直在寻求着一些改变,使人们能够感到有新意,希望每项工作都能够有条不紊的进行着,因此我们会不时地回顾之前的工作做得是否到位,或者说是否能够做得更好,然后我们会整理出一套更为完善的方案。
上海希尔顿酒店如此优秀的合作与服务,使我们有理由相信酒店和其他主办方之间的合作一定非常愉快。每年Volkmar Ruebel先生都做得很好并在其中仍有提高,能够和他合作,相信那些主办方也一定感到很高兴。“主办方知道我们酒店可以举办大型活动,但他们不知道我们有能力举办两千人的超大型活动,这不仅仅是一天的事情而是七、八天的活动,这两者是完全的不同的概念,需要不同的技巧。正因为有了这些成功的经验,使得我们有信心能够组织更多的户外项目。”Volkmar Ruebel先生在说这些时候脸上始终洋溢着自豪的笑容,并颇有忆苦思甜的味道,“第一步总是充满艰辛的,当初场地的设施并不如现在那么令人满意,2002年的场馆设在浦东展览中心。那一年比赛期间一直下着大雨,这让在场的人都感到瑟瑟发抖,毕竟那是十一月份,刮风、下雨总是使我们的工作变得很困难。而如今的旗忠网球场设施非常优越,这让很多人印象深刻,可以称得上是‘大师’级的场地,这些令运动员很满意,能够尽情发挥,也让我们感到满意和欣慰。大师杯的日益成熟,使我们想努力让它成为上海旅游的一部分,同时上海政府也对此相当重视,这使得大师杯在2005年又回到了中国上海。”
车队的汉密尔顿,美国的女足选手们、特奥会贵宾们,加上即将到来的大师杯,这丰富了我们接待重要团队和人物的经验,使酒店的服务水平更上一层楼,同时,相信有了我们的良好的服务,他们在赛场上也能发挥出应有的水平。”Volkmar Ruebel先生又补充说道,“随着大师杯在上海的举办,使得网球这项之前并不为人所人热衷的运动如今却越来越受到关注,与此同时, F1也吸引着越来越多的赛车迷。 我认为无论做什么事,各方面的合作和自己本身的积极投入是最重要的,只有全身心地投入进去,才有可能把事情做到完美。”
随着上海的飞速发展,如今很多国际知名酒店品牌在上海落户,但这些并没有影响到上海希尔顿酒店在人们心目中的地位,对此,Volkmar Ruebel先生自有他的“秘诀”:“我觉得所谓的秘诀应该是合作过程中的坚持和热情。希尔顿致力于为我们的顾客提供更好的服务,这样才能让他们感到物有所值。我常常会在酒店的大堂与客人交谈,了解他们对酒店的看法和建议,以此拉近与他们之间的距离。我的团队里的其他人也总是这样,与客人交谈并不是每个人都能做到的,我只是给员工做一个示范,别人看到了会想总经理也这样做那我也应该去做。在很多方面我们必须起到表率作用。”
酒店是一个围绕着服务和人的行业,如果有一个好的运营氛围,每个员工都会很开心,而这种喜悦会传染给来到酒店的客人,每当客人来到酒店的时候都会发现它在不断地进步着。上海希尔顿酒店的人员流动并不像其他酒店那样频繁,酒店的员工常常能够认出熟客。“我认为稳定的服务团队能够给人以安心的感觉,使人感觉放松,而不需要去担心过多不必要的东西,因为每当有一个新的总经理上任,下面的员工总是不可避免的会出现焦虑的情绪。同样的,如果我去一家新的酒店任职,那我就要重新向我的员工展示我的才能,这似乎有点浪费金钱和精力。酒店应该给人以家的感觉,客人来到熟悉的地方,见到熟悉的设施和人,这会使得他们对酒店有更深的感情。”Volkmar Ruebel先生如是说。
“在我上任的最初,我面临过许多的困难和挑战,但我不能懈怠,我必须不断前进来克服它们。上海希尔顿酒店有不少行业内的创新举措,如我们是第一家推出综合SPA设施的酒店,还有我们的“采云轩”会议楼层,以及对行政楼层和行政酒廊的改造。与此同时,我们还建造了十字形的旋转门。在过去的二十年,我算了一下,大约有两千万的人进出过我们原来的那扇门,尽管人数让我感到非常兴奋,但我们在倾听客人反馈后,还是决定换成旋转门。”说到这里,笔者感受到的是Volkmar Ruebel先生始终把客人的要求放在第一位的敬业态度。
和Volkmar Ruebel先生的谈话,让人深深感到了希尔顿之所以能长盛不衰是有它的必然性的,酒店在软硬件方面的不断更新,人事上的稳定和服务的连贯性,热心支持国际体育赛事等等都为上海希尔顿酒店能够在激烈的酒店业的竞争中处于不败的地位奠定了扎实的基础,与此同时,酒店能够拥有如此优秀且敬业的总经理,想必也是他们成功的一个重要因素。


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