One hotel, one story
Pullman Beijing West Wanda: the eventful hotel in Beijing
The Pullman Beijing West Wanda hotel is in Shijingshan, the new financial hub in the west of China’s capital. This 5-star hotel is concurrently cosmopolitan and true to Chinese culture, and the past few years have seen it emerge as a stylish venue for leading-edge hospitality services, in particular for celebrations and other events. Pullman Beijing West Wanda General Manager Joseph Mak took us on the tour of this hotel hovering between tradition and up-to-the-minute zip, and between the frantic city action and relaxed Zen-inspired moods.
“We’re in a modern bubble, right in the middle of a civilisation that dates back several millennia,” explains Pullman Beijing West Wanda General Manager Joseph Mak. Every employee walking around the corridors or standing behind the reception desk is proudly donning a cheongsam, an ancestral body-hugging one-piece dress with a Mao neck and one of this hotel’s quintessentially Chinese hallmarks. Subtle yet unmistakably Chinese touches steep the 312 rooms and 3 restaurants. The finest suites for instance feature porcelain vases and traditional hand-crafted gems. The interior design in this hotel in the Wanda Plaza tower is at once eminently contemporary and unambiguously reminiscent of its host country’s distinctive class.
The Pullman Beijing West Wanda is strategically located in the heart of the new financial hub in Shijingshan, which is principally crawling with entertainment and media companies. It has eight meeting rooms, including an immense 1,400 sqm ballroom with an 8.5-metre-high ceiling, that host more than 300 events a year. It organised its largest ever in January 2010 for a large political delegation. “We had 900 delegates in the conference auditorium all day long, and our teams turned the room into a banquet hall for the evening do in only 45 minutes. It was a huge achievement!” Joseph Mak proudly remembers. The Events branch, which counts six full-time staff, is one the main departments in this hotel, which hosts three or four simultaneous events every day. “Events range from corporate seminars to birthdays and anniversaries, and on to Chinese weddings. We have about 60 a year,” Joseph Mak confirms. The hotel sometimes also resembles Hollywood, complete with superheroes strolling around the corridors for the World Comics festival in 2011.
Three well-known restaurants
The bustling Pullman Beijing West Wanda has also established an enviable Beijing-wide reputation for its three restaurants. The Cheng serves European and international cuisine, and the Edo serves Japanese dishes. The typically local soft light in the Old Shanghai Restaurant is only one of this exclusive establishment’s features. This centennial restaurant chain is well known in China, inter alia for its white and red meat treats. The Old Shanghai Restaurant’s menu features French dishes that patrons thoroughly enjoy – including crème brûlée, coq au vin and salade niçoise – and Chinese classics – including its most famous treat, a meat broth from Hong-Kong made with pork, tofu and eggs cooked in a bouillon. “Our guests absolutely adore this consommé,” Joseph Mak enthuses. The steamed or fried meat crackers are the second most popular dish on the menu, and the wooden furniture, embroidered cushions and paintings depicting country life treat guests to an unrivalled experience in a traditional universe. The scents of duck – an epicurean favourite here – steep the atmosphere and whet the appetite. And enthusiasts sometimes travel across the city to watch chef Zang make his famous Chinese noodles.
This hotel counts 300 permanent staff and 50 trainees. The General Manager’s secret to run this ‘cruise ship’, including its several restaurants and myriad events, is to “keep everyone happy to help them to be the best they can be.” He adds, “I want to protect my staff, and hold on to them. Team spirit is more important here than anywhere else because Chinese hotels see a lot of staff turnover.” This hotel hires about 10 newcomers a month because employees leave 6 months on average after they arrive. To cement cohesion, the teams take part in a sports competition for staff from the 9 Accor hotels in Beijing. The Beijing West Wanda hotel team has won the football match for 3 years in a row and 20 employees will be taking part in a bowling tournament this year.
Welcome to China
Most of the Pullman team are from Beijing, which is important to cater to Chinese business customers’ wants and needs. A few of the particulars here can be amazing. For example, the 13 private dining rooms in the restaurants – which customers prize – are very often full. During official events, two to six hostesses escort each VIP guest to his or her table, the hotel is closed to visitors, and security staff is doubled. But the most amusing anecdotes come from the rooms: “We often need to remind visitors that smoking in bed is forbidden,” Joseph Mak laughs, and adds, “Sometimes, customers forget cash in their suite safe – and even under their pillow!” The people in charge of reminding guests of the rules are the four private concierges in the Club, an exclusive two-storey area for businesspeople.
Relaxing the gentle way
Last but not least, the Touch Spa on the 3rd storey is where the tumult subsides and serenity takes over. Guests here are immersed in a reassuring cocoon. The paintings, candles and perfume burners are brimming with Chinese cultural hallmarks. The most popular service is the tuina, a two-thumb massage on the stomach, legs, arms and back to restore emotional balance, unclog the lungs and decongest the legs, among other benefits. But a trip to China would not be complete without the traditional foot massage… with a lotion formulated especially from an ancestral Chinese medicinal recipe.