Pursuing Excellence and Sincere Service
A passionate Australian hotelier, Shaun Campbell’s career spans roles in diverse five-star global hotel groups around the world. Now managing director of The Langham, Hong Kong, Asia Dreams caught up with him to talk about his thoughts on the hospitality industry.
Q: What drew you into the hotel industry?
A: Simply, people and culture, both of which remain great motivators; the chance to work with such a variety of people and cultures provides constant learning and experiences. Even having just received the news that our Cantonese restaurant T’ang Court has retained the highest accolade of three Michelin stars, it is the people that deliver this great experience – our executive chef and director of service have both led the restaurant for over 20 years!
Q: The Langham, Hong Kong is a very sophisticated hotel, what do you enjoy most about it?
A: The combined passion of the team bringing together the detail, creativity and thoughtfulness required to deliver sophisticated service experiences. Whilst The Langham is a classic-style brand, this doesn’t necessarily mean formal. We often receive the most positive feedback from guests around simple, thoughtful hospitality that can often be informal.
Q: Hong Kong is a melting pot of people and cultures; how do you help your team deal with such a variety of expectations from hotel guests?
A: There are some constants in all cultures, yet one of the subtle areas, especially within the Asian cultures, is anticipating client preferences and gaining feedback. We have introduced a number of communications channels, including WeChat and IPTV messaging to allow two-way digital communications, as well as testing a new “pulse check” digital message on the first day of a guest stay to gain early feedback.
Q: Would you share a great memory from your working life with us?
A: There are so many, but one that springs to mind was a late evening exchange several years ago. I was doing a last-minute, late night walk through when I noticed one of my bar team in the kitchen shucking oysters. The kitchen team had already gone home, but she wanted to look after two guests who had walked in late and really wanted some oysters. I went to say hello to the guests and explained that May was personally getting their oysters and it turned out they were staying with us for the first time, incognito, considering the hotel for an incentive group from Australia. Out of that small experience, we ended up having six different incentive group bookings over the next three years! That brand loyalty started with just one small act of hospitality.
Q: What changes have you seen in the luxury hotel industry over the last few years and what changes do you expect to see in the coming years?
A: The younger generation of luxury traveller are seeking quality with more informality and spontaneous experiences. Particularly Asian short haul travellers who book with shorter lead times and arrive with open itineraries, so we need to be agile to connect with them. In some ways, all of us become part of the concierge team. Guests are often looking for good advice and we must all be well prepared but not too scripted.
Q: What plans do you have for The Langham, Hong Kong in the coming years?
A: We aspire to continue as a leading luxury player within the city and have the pleasure of collaborating with some great partners to deliver new guest experiences. In 2018, a new premium sake brand chose T’ang Court for its Hong Kong launch venue rather than a Japanese restaurant, because we have been experimenting with sake and Cantonese food pairing for some years. Our Artesian bar has been chosen by the creators of Hong Kong’s first gin brand, Bauhinia, for its global launch in January as they feel our bar is one of the great gin bars of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, we are adding a new charcoal grill and dry-aging area to the recently renovated and relaunched Bostonian Seafood & Grill to further enhance its grill concept. It’s exciting to continue to invest in new experiences and products for our guests.
Q: Outside the hotel, what do you do to relax?
A: I spend time with the family and at our holiday house in Hokkaido, which has a simple lifestyle that contrasts with Hong Kong. Within in the city, I enjoy the wide variety of food and beverage experiences that Hong Kong has to offer, and occasionally watch some football – Liverpool is having a good year!