St Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort is among Hainan Island’s more mature luxury hotels – well, it opened six years ago, on 11/11/11 to be exact (the gal is not sure if the owners, the mighty COPCO conglomerate, arranged for eleven pipers piping, as for the 12 Days of Christmas, to arrive at exactly 1100 that Friday). The hotel has therefore had time to settle down, and get into a routine. Austrian GM Andreas Trauttmansdorff similarly has oodles of experience, and nothing seems to faze him, even when the rare foreign visitor calls by and the heavens open. The 396 rooms here are enormous – starting size is 730 sq ft – and #2705 obviously not only had space but everything the typical guest wants. See the room, and its balcony, in the video below.
With 95% of customers being Chinese, it is highly likely rooms will be occupied by parents and the ubiquitous single child, possibly with up to four grandparents staying in an adjacent or connecting room. Ah, one little prince or princess and possibly six adult admirers who fawn over that infant… is it surprising that, says Andreas Trauttmansdorff, no-one wants their miniature idol to aspire to becoming a hotelier? In his case, this Austrian, who grew up with five siblings, started his professional career cleaning washrooms at Hyatt Regency Vancouver, and look where that led him. As we sat poolside in Driftwood restaurant, eating bijou single-prawn and avocado salads followed by perfectly lightly-cooked cod on spinach, with famous local Hainan beans (cross-section, they are square), he recounted some highlights of his progress. Many years of Sheraton were broken up by opening InterContinental Singapore, as F&B under GM Daniel Desbaillets: that was the hotel, I recall, where original plans seemed to forget that the chef needed an office.
After spells at other InterContinentals in south-east Asia he returned to what was by now Starwood, joining Westin on the Bund in Shanghai, and then he was called here. Wherever it is in China, it seems the challenges are the same. Where DO hoteliers find their teams and having got people in place how do they train them before some jump to competitors, lured by just a few more dollars? And how can they get English levels up to the requirement of international luxury brands? Wearing the hat of a devil’s advocate, however, how necessary is it to find perfect English when only five per cent of guests are likely to be non-Chinese? It was almost time to go, and I said my goodbyes over the hotel’s unique version of St Regis’ brand-standard Bloody Mary, in this case a Sanya Mary, with calamansi and a spicy yellow chili.