DB talked to Mr. Anthony Tyler, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou. Tyler discussed settling into the flower city with his family, his plan to build on the hotel’s reputation for excellent service, and hosting the Canadian Prime Minister.

DB: Before you came to Guangzhou you were at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong. Now that you have been in Guangzhou for half a year, how have you found it? What is it like compared to Shanghai?

We very much like Guangzhou, both myself and my family. We’ve settled in very nicely and thoroughly enjoyed the place. It’s an exciting city. People are always asking me to point out the differences between the two cities. I guess besides language, food, and weather, which are fairly obvious, there are more similarities than there are differences. Both are cities with a rich history, and both are cities that over the last generation have really reinvented themselves and developed, modernised, and achieved an awful lot. So in that sense I feel that the two cities are similar.

From the perspective of running a hotel in Guangzhou or Shanghai, the biggest difference was that, due to its location, the property in Shanghai attracted a lot of financial accounts, a lot of business gravitated around financial services. Here the financial services give us some business, but it’s not as big a component of our overall business as it was in Shanghai. We have a broader breadth of industries represented among our clients – trading, tech, even industries like gaming. It’s a little bit of a bigger mix here.

DB: How are your family enjoying Guangzhou?

They’ve settled in very well. The children are very much dependent on how happy they are at school, and fortunately both kids are delighted with their school, teachers, and friends. My wife is very happy as well. She enjoys her new life in Guangzhou, and through the school has made a lot of friends and gotten a very active social circle fast. Yes, the family is very happy.

DB: What is your plan to build the hotel’s reputation for excellent service?

I’m fortunate in the sense that I took over a hotel that had been very well established by the previous general manager,and is adjacent to the best mall in Southern China, TaiKoo Hui. In my case, it’s just taking it to the next level, fine-tuning areas. Continuing to respond to the ever-evolving demands of our clients. There isn’t really any major transformation needed in the sense that what I inherited was extremely well set up and worked very well.

I think the biggest challenge for us all in China is that the needs of the clients are evolving so fast. The market is getting more refined by the day. The points of comparison are more and more refined as well. We’re now being compared to the best in the world, and not just the best in China or the best in Guangzhou. With that comes an expectation on us to keep raising the bar and elevating the standards, in particular from a service delivery standpoint. It’s much easier now in the industry to offer a great physical product than it is to offer the soft side – the service delivery piece – and that’s what we focus on here. We’re fortunate to have a great physical product, but we want to compliment that with great service. My goal is to continue on what has been done for the past five years, and continue to refine and elevate the level of service delivery.

DB: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou last month. Were you able to meet him? What was it like hosting someone like Trudeau?

I was. He met a number of us, actually. He was very generous with his time and allowed us to have a group photograph with him, prior to which he made time to shake hands with every single colleague in the room and thanked us for an enjoyable stay. It was a great privilege for the hotel to host Prime Minister Trudeau, and we were delighted to be chosen as the host hotel for their delegation.

For us, operationally speaking, the only difference is their security constraints. From a pure service delivery standpoint it’s no different to any other guest. The expectations are the same, the obligations on us to deliver are the same. Prime Minister Trudeau and his team were a pleasure to work with, and really made our job easy.

DB: Are there any interesting or memorable experiences in your working life that you can share with us?

I always say, the most interesting experiences in my case have happened out of work. I chose this line of business initially because I wanted to see the world, travel, and get out of my small home town in Switzerland. Really the most exciting parts of my journey have been the opportunities I’ve been given to meet people and experience situations that I wouldn’t have been able to experience had I not chosen this career.

Being invited to a wedding in Saudi Arabia, turtle nesting in Costa Rica, religious festivals in Indonesia and Malaysia, being in Hong Kong in 1997 at the time of the handover, taking part in an outrigger canoe race in Hawaii. I think those are the memories that stay with me. The work in itself is exciting and interesting, but I always found that it was what happened outside of work that stood out the most.