PortfolioJumeirah Clearwater Bay Resort
Qingshui Wan, Lingshui, Hainan, China
Born in 1966, David Cheng earned his post-graduate degree in Economics at Nanjing University and then continued his studies at Les Roches Hotel Management School Switzerland and China Europe International Business School.
David started his hotel career with Jinling Hotel Nanjing at various positions, then joined Jin Mao in 1997; he was a member of the preopening team for Jin Mao Tower and held the position of Deputy General Manager Grand Hyatt Shanghai.
As the major driving force for hotel development and operations for Jin Mao, David has been responsible for the project development and the supervision of operations after opening of the following hotels: Hilton Sanya (2005), The Ritz-Carlton Sanya (2008), Westin Beijing Chaoyang (2008) and JW Marriott Shenzhen (2009). His role includes selecting the location/project; negotiating and fixing the management contracts; and supervising the construction, preopening activities, and operations.
You are responsible for some of the best performing hotels in China. To what do you attribute the success of these properties?
Three things, primarily.
The first key to success is open and honest communication. We bring together all members of the team early on to brainstorm concepts and to have a discussion about the objectives for the hotel, so we can all work toward the same goal. We start with defining why we're doing the project in the first place.
The second is focusing on coordination throughout the course of the project. Organizing and prioritizing takes time and effort but pays off handsomely.
The third is respecting the creativity of our architects and designers. Of course we offer our input and suggestions, as do the representatives of the hotel management company, but we trust the design team to know how to create concepts that will be successful in the marketplace.
What are you most proud of?
Many hotels in China don't make money and never will. We're very proud of the fact that ours are not only financially successful but that the return on investment has been very fast.
And we're proud of the recognition we've received from the industry. At the China Hotel Development and Finance Conference, a single exemplary project is selected for an award each year based on its design, operations and financial success. We were very pleased that two of the projects designed by WATG - Hilton Sanya and The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya - won this prestigious honor in successive years, based on the assessment of 60 expert jurors.
What are some issues that are unique to achieving success in China?
Projects in China often involve multiple general contractors: one for civil/structural, one for M/E/P, one for interiors. Coordination can be very cumbersome and complicated.
Often either the government or "the big boss" dictates a date by which the hotel needs to open. And, in too many cases, driving toward that deadline means sacrificing quality for speed.
We strive to balance speed, quality, cost and safety. And we're interested in building long-term relationships and long-term success.
How has the growth of travel among Chinese nationals impacted the design of your properties?
As they become increasing sophisticated consumers, they want to be impressed. They don't want subtlety or understatement. It starts with a sense of arrival and continues with an expectation of international luxury-branded retail and larger-than-average public spaces.
No longer are Chinese wanting copies of Western design. They appreciate authentic, functional design that includes the contemporary interpretation of Chinese elements.
As you travel around the region and around the world, what are some of your pet peeves as a hotel guest?
I don't like to be kept waiting … either at check-in, check out, getting a table at a restaurant, or catching a cab. Good design and management can minimize these frustrations.
In the guestroom, I’ve noticed an annoying trend toward too many distractions, gadgets, promotional pieces and amenities. Fresh flowers and fruit are enough to please me.
My other complaint is too much of a reliance on the latest technology – to operate drapes, lights, entertainment systems – that is neither intuitive nor user-friendly.
And what lifts your spirit?
I love it when a project goes smoothly. I enjoy making steady progress in my job. I value building relationships. And, at the end of the day, you can't beat a little quiet time, a good cigar, and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee or tea.