The Urban Oasis
----Exclusive Interview with Mr. Jorgen Christensen,
General Manager of Marco Polo Changzhou, and His Team
Speaking of Changzhou, it is known as one of the major cities of the modernized Yangtze River Delta and a reputably livable city in China with azure sky, clear waters, enchanting natural environment, balanced urban development based on harmonious coexistence between man and nature. Su Dongpo, the celebrated literary giant of the Northern Song Dynasty, a native of Sichuan Province, was a frequent visitor to Changzhou, and regarded it as his second hometown due to its picturesque landscape of forested hills and rivers that emanate captivating charm. Now the same hills and waters remain for visitors to discover and follow the footsteps of Su Dongpo. And they may also explore a new world amid this urban oasis, where Marco Polo Changzhou stands. And we are honored to have interviewed Mr. Jorgen Christensen, General Manager of Marco Polo Changzhou, and his team for a better understanding of the city of Changzhou.
As one of Marco Polo Hotels, Marco Polo Changzhou adheres to the brand philosophy that highlights impeccable service, profound knowledge and embraces local culture. It is a leading hotel brand within the region, widely acclaimed by business and leisure travelers. Marco Polo Hotels embody the ethos of discovery, creating unique guest experiences and drawing on the key philosophies of its namesake, Marco Polo: the explorer, global traveler, entrepreneur and connoisseur of culture----just as Marco Polo’s modern travelers are today. Located in the heart of the Xinbei District of Changzhou, Marco Polo Changzhou covers an area of 19 hectares, and is surrounded by 15 acres of lush private garden and oversees the Zaojiang River. It sits next to the Changzhou Dinosaur Park, a national 5A scenic spot, and close to Tianyu Temple and Yancheng Chunqiu Amusement Land. It is minutes away from Huning Highway (Shanghai – Nanjing) and 15 minutes’ drive from Changzhou train station. It takes less than an hour to travel to Shanghai by high speed railway. With the metro due to start operation between 2018 and 2019, it will be rather convenient to visit Changzhou, either on a self-driving tour or by group travel.
It is almost 2 years since the hotel was launched. As the General Manager of Marco Polo Changzhou, Mr. Jorgen Christensen boasts rich management experience across Europe, United States, Mainland China and Hongkong, along his 25 year hospitality career. He successfully launched 4 luxury hotels and helped in market repositioning of another 4 that realized significant revenue growth. He joined Marco Polo Hotels as he identifies with its brand philosophy that, according to him, “the management attach high importance to details, care for the team and give thoughtful consideration to every aspect of hotel operation; and they advocate a culture of support, encouragement and help, all of which seem extremely attractive and contagious to me.” He is delighted to have joined Marco Polo Hotels and hope to bring more customers to the urban oasis of Changzhou with his extensive hospitality experience. Since he joined Marco Polo Changzhou, its operating performance has been on the increase, of which revenue increases by 80% on that of the same period last year. A man of action at work, he puts it into practice whenever there is a good idea, and this also finds expression in his learning of the Chinese language and culture.
A glimpse at his CV reveals that Mr. Jorgen Christensen went to Beijing to attend classes on Chinese culture and Mandarin at Tsinghua University. As is said, the best way to access the culture of a city is to learn its local language. A good command of Chinese has facilitated his career in China and after arriving in Changzhou, he continued to learn about its history and culture, which, in turn, helped him work out an efficient and precise market positioning of the hotel. Mr. Jorgen Christensen was born in the year of the dragon, the animal symbolic of the Chinese nation as well as ancient Chinese emperors. Coincidentally, the city of Changzhou is called the “Dragon City” as it is home to some 15 emperors of the ancient states of Chi and Liang during Northern and Southern Dynasties. As a result, he believes that a unique bond links him to China, on which his remarks sparkle with passion.
During our interview, Mr. Jorgen Christensen showcases the competitiveness of the hotel in terms of its best-in-class facilities and premium services. Marco Polo Changzhou offers guests 302 elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites with modern oriental decor. Cozy and personalized services typical of Marco Polo Hotels are provided to guests on the Executive Floor. It is noteworthy that 31 exclusive rooms and suites, including Presidential Suites are housed at The Mansion, for distinguished guests to relax, hold a cocktail party or the like. Featuring 2000 square meters of function space, consisting of the Pillar-less Marco Polo Ballroom and 20 multi-purpose function rooms, all meeting and banquet facilities feature natural sunlight, complemented by well-designed private gardens that are a perfect destination for corporate meeting trips and bonus tours. In March 2016, Marco Polo Hotels Global Conference of General Managers and Directors of Restaurants, Bars & Events was held in Changhou as an indication of the hotel’s premier status. The hotel also boasts optimal leisure and event facilities, including a weddings lawn, a roof terrace, a riverside corridor, all of which are preferred venues for stylish outdoor activities. Guests may have a full recharge at the indoor swimming pool, Fitness Center, SPA, chess room and outdoor tennis courts.
Delicacies offered at the hotel is what diners always enjoy talking about. At the turn of the season, various medicated dishes are prepared to cater to various guests’ needs. Classic cuisines are available at assorted restaurants of the hotel. Jiulong Ya Yuan Chinese Restaurant serves authentic Cantonese cuisine and Huaiyan cuisine while Garden Café delivers all day dining dishes and sumptuous buffets. The Lobby Lounge and Tapas Bar are perfect places to unwind and gather with friends and clients. Francesco Rizzo, the Executive Chef, a native of Italy and a accomplished linguist, used to work at international hotels as one of their chefs. With industrious learning, he acquires better knowledge of Changzhou, and according to him, “People in Changzhou tend to eat out. Local culinary culture and popular trends must be incorporated into our delicacies in order to tempt their palate.” He often draws inspirations for his culinary innovation from his communication with local residents and attaches importance to an updated knowledge of the constantly changing market.
In addition, the market positioning of the hotel is other than that of a traditional resort hotel or business hotel. During weekdays, the hotel is defined as a business hotel for business clients to hold meetings, conduct project negotiations or organize group events. On weekends, however, it is defined as a resort hotel since families of guests stay here when they come for Changzhou Dinosaur Park where they have a great time and have their knowledge enriched and horizon broadened.
Speaking of the future of Changzhou, Ms. Mariko Kawai, Director of Sales & Marketing and of Marco Polo Changzhou, shares with us, “The prospects of Changzhou are in favor of our hotel, as the municipal government is relocated to Xinbei District, and its tourist bureau is dedicated to an image building campaign for the city. A second phase construction is well under way for the popular China Dinosaur Land. An aviation museum is to be built. In the blueprint of Changzhou, tourism will experience further development and realize greater accomplishments. With rising incomes and growing enthusiasm for tourism, it is believed that more tourists will be attracted to Changzhou.” Plans have been formulated accordingly by the hotel, with such knowledge and analysis of the market. In terms of event planning, different events are organized according to the seasons. For example, in spring, celebrations for the Spring Festival are organized. In summer, Changzhou is an ideal destination for families of tourists from neighboring Shanghai. Package and intriguing activities for family guests are offered, which include English classes, cooking classes and golf courses for kids. There are also kids rooms and Piccolo Kids Club. German Beer Festival, an annual grand event held in Hongkong by Marco Polo Hotels for 25 years, will be held in Marco Polo Changzhou this autumn for the first time. In winter, a Christmas party will be staged with warm hospitality here. These seasonal events aim at increasing public awareness and understanding of Marco Polo Changzhou with an exposure to its dedicated, thoughtful care.
Expatriates as the three interviewees are, they all speak very fluent Chinese and cherish love for the Chinese culture and history. While working in China, they embrace the local culture and devote great passion to their daily work. Successes achieved by the hotel is rooted in the daily research of and exploration into the local economy and culture by the entire team, who identify themselves as natives of Changzhou so that they are making every effort to further polish every details.
Now, the three hoteliers are making invitations to those who cherish love for Changzhou and those who wish to learn more about Changzhou, and they hope to bring a sense of belonging and homelike hospitality to those away from home at Marco Polo Changzhou. Guests are expected to come for a tangible feel of it, since there is much more about a hotel or a city that reaches beyond the description of words. An urban oasis with a long history and rich culture heritage, the city of Changzhou will impress every visitor here. Those who have traveled to and around the city will share the same feeling with Su Dongpo that “I am now determined to settle down in Changzhou.”