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COVER STORY: A place for Love, Family and Friends...Exclusive interview with Simpson Han, General Manager of The Westin Changbaishan Resort & Sheraton Changbaishan Resort
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A place for Love, Family and Friends...

in one of the best areas for skiing

Exclusive interview with Simpson Han, General Manager of

The Westin Changbaishan Resort & Sheraton Changbaishan Resort

By Darren Grosvenor

 97A1332 副本21 副本 smallSometimes there are opportunities to talk with experts in different areas and this is the case with Simpson Han. He boasts of many years of experience in the hospitality and tourism development in different parts of China and would like to share his perspective and knowledge with us.

Simpson started his career in the Shandong area and then moved to Hainan. The beach area of Hainan morphed from a small tourist zone to a resort experience. He was one of the first high-level managers of an International Resort within China. After several years, he has come to the Starwood Group's resort complex here in ChangBaiShan.

You have been managing high profile hotels in different cities. After all the experience you have had, what brought you to ChangBaiShan?

I have worked in several cities and provinces within China and I selected this location because it is a resort. I have the ability to understand the special requirements of guests within a resort atmosphere which is new to China. Guests spend a great deal of time within the complex and the staff can connect with them. It is not the same as a business or city hotel. There is more space within the resort which allows you to enrich the experience for the guest.

In addition, it is in the North of China and after my long experience in Southern China (the warmer area), I feel the benefit of working in this unique place will refuel my career life with challenges and cooler clean surroundings.

 97A1290 副本1 编辑What are the key points that make The Westin ChangBaiShan Resort and Sheraton ChangBaiShan Resort stand at the top of the most exclusive Ski Resorts of the world?

This resort was one of the first ski resorts within the Starwood Group. I think ChangBaiShan is based on the geography of the area - the lake, volcano, low wind speed and the perfect zone for the best skiing and quiet environment. This is one of the best areas for skiing. The combined concept of skiing and resort facilities is designed very well and has always ranked near the top.

Wanda developed and manages this complex area. The equipment is newer and in good condition. The quality of materials used is of the highest quality. As you know, skiing is a new thing in China. The new generation within China is taking to this new sport.

What do you think about the present and future of the Tourism Development in China and what is ChangBaiShan offering that differentiates it from other places?

It is growing rapidly. Most of the tourists are going abroad, but before they can do that, they travelling within the domestic market. The average number of times to travel was approximately 0.2 times per year per person back in 1984. About 30 years later, in 2015, it has increased to 3 times per year per person. In addition, the amount of spending within the tourism industry is now increasing at more than 10% yearly.

China is also ranked number one for inbound and outbound tourism and it contributes 11% to the national GDP. The Chinese government has put new and favorable polices in effect to grow this industry. In the near future, the winter Olympics should be held within this area. The focus of tourism should aim towards this objective. And, ChangBaiShan is very unique as being one of first complexes that has a family ski paradise which upgrades the experience more than just visiting the snow, but making it more like ski leisure.

 97A1318 副本1How are The Westin ChangBaiShan Resort and Sheraton ChangBaiShan Resort building their products and creating a competitive advantage to make a unique choice in China?

Firstly, we need to know our market. In summer the keyword is cooling and the forest coverage is more than 95% so it is very shaded. In winter, the keyword is skiing. People come here year after year to enjoy the sport and the environment with their family. We have worked over the recent years to build the transportation cooperation so the flights and other ways to reach the area from Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, etc. are convenient. We are making a new way to connect Changchun to this area as easy as possible as well. From the local airport, our complex is only 15 to 20 minutes which is very near.

We have designed the resort to be a one-stop experience. The things you need (skiing, dining, tourism) are all in one place and easy to access. The guest can share facilities between the two brands as well. They could have breakfast in the Sheraton today and then in the Westin the next day. We have our own in-house Ski House to assist with the needed ski equipment. There is a new practice area that is just 10 meters away from the resort. You can ski in and ski out. We are at the halfway point of the mountain which is the top most part of tourism complex.

So many people think this area is so much like the European ski areas in Switzerland. We have these two well-known and popular brands joined together to give a great experience. Our SPG elite members can also enjoy and even higher level. Eventually, the local airport will be designated as an International airport which should increase the access by those from other nearby countries. This is place to know a different China within China.

 97A1489 副本The ChangBaiShan Natural Area is considered as one of the most beautiful places of China. How does it attract more visitors to the hotels you are managing?

The hotel does not exist on its own. It is part of the whole scenery. We are focusing on all of China as our customers. Even Tianjin has a direct flight which makes it easier to reach than those resorts near Beijing. Other areas of China might have grass-lands but that is a different experience. This complex is a unique combination with nature. It also has a rich history of the Man nationality of the Qing dynasty.

ChangBaiShan International Ski Resort is maybe the best Ski Resort in China. What is your prediction of the Ski Tourism Development in China?

Skiing is quite new within China. The development will be very quick. Besides the natural growth, the ski leisure industry will also grow very fast. By 2025, the coverage of this industry should be approximately 300 million people. We have seen the number of people visiting ChangBaiShan growing by 15% each year. TFurther exposure of the area will increase this number.

The Westin ChangBaiShan Resort and Sheraton ChangBaiShan Resort are the most well managed hotels included in ChangBaiShan International Ski Resorts Area. What other extraordinary facilities could your guests find?

This is not a small place. We have the mountains, small towns, hotels and natural places to visit over the seasons. We have 43 ski tracks on the mountain. We have a world-class skiing experience from novice to advanced level (Diamond) of skiing ability.

The guest can get everything they need within the resort paradise. We have Skiing assistants that can coach them on the skiing ability. We have a special area within the Westin to help kids lose their fear of skiing. We understand the need for kids to have special attention given to them to make their visit happier. We have put special robes, slippers and areas to satisfy their desires. We also have a safe environment. It is a place for love, family and friends.

 97A1587 副本You have rich experience in resorts and tourist destinations. What have been the important milestones in your career?

Actually, my background is from Human Resources side and from this I was able to understand people and the level of expectation.

Before that, years ago, there were only local hotels within China and when the International hotels started coming I was able to make the transition to that style of hotel.

The Tourism industry, specifically Hotel and Resorts, is growing and rapidly developing in China. How do you maintain your staff and build up your team in such a fast-changing environment?

It's a good question. In the overall industry, there has been so much growth so there is not enough staff to fill the positions. The area here is remote and quiet so my concept is to know the heart of employees. The people must love here.

The scenery, climate, pure air and the base for their career through an international hotel and resort chain is a great benefit to them. I hope that they will have a career path here. We have several career growth programs in the Starwood Group. We are delivering a family environment to our team members.

Your resorts are specially loved by expatriates? What makes The Westin ChangBaiShan Resort and Sheraton ChangBaiShan Resort the preferable choice for foreigners and high profile local guests?

We are an international brand. The nature complex is at an international level. Our food and beverage is prepared as per this level as well. I encourage my staff to be like a friend to the guest. After your check-in, you can come to the staff like your single point of contact to assist with needs and desires. If there is a language difficulty, the staff will do their best to assist.

These well managed Resorts have a spectacular atmosphere and great service. Are there any upcoming events that you would like to share with us?

We have many events. There are city wide and nationwide ski clubs that prepare events here. We have several car companies that hold their events here. We will have tree lighting here very soon. There will also be a x-mas party and a new year's party as well for the guests and children.

Tianjin is one of China's most important, biggest and exciting cities. If you had the chance to meet each person in Tianjin, what would you like to say to the potential customers residing in Tianjin?

I think ChangBaiShan is unique and special for Tianjiners and for the foreigners living and working within Tianjin. We welcome you here any time. You can see a different China in this area.

We are ready to serve you.

What do you think needs to develop in ChangBaiShan to enhance the future in the area and its lively hospitality industry?

Change is constant. We need to promote this area to get the exposure with the people. This is not only a ski resort. It is a holiday paradise!

Thank you for attending the interview. Would you like to add anything else to share with our readers?

The whole experience is like a taking a breath of fresh air.

After talking with Simpson Han, I got the impression that he is the person that knows, better than anyone, the tourism industry in China from the hospitality point of view. I also recommend everyone to visit his comfortable resorts located in an amazing area. A holiday paradise, as he likes to define this part of China, just beside the sacred mountain Changbai "Permanent White Mountain" which half is part of North Korea, but â€Ãƒ‚¦ this is another interesting story!


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