SUPER efficient Metro, more orderly queues for trains, much improved air quality: these are some of the changes that impressed Australian Steve Finlayson when he returned to the city this year.

Back for his second Shanghai posting with Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the new general manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World was certainly surprised by the staggering growth during the five years since he last lived here.

The number of hotels listed on Tripadvisor, for example, has jumped to 5,000 from 3,000.

“This is a huge leap and no other market in the world can handle such growth,” Finlayson, who took the helm of the 520-key five-star hotel in the city center in January, told Shanghai Daily.

“A lot of new hotels have come online and there is a lot of dynamism in this market.”

The Scot, with more than 25 years in the hospitality industry under his belt, is excited to be back and to embrace the challenges in Shanghai’s rapidly growing and increasingly competitive market.

“Competition will keep coming and the only way to offset it is consistently delivering excellence,” he said. “To give in advance of customers’ expectation is my ethos for the service industry.”

On Nanjing Road W., opposite People’s Park and with direct underground access to People’s Square metro station, where three metro lines converge, the Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World is enjoying a good run this year with double-digit growth. Occupancy — 70 percent are foreigners — is above the market average.

“With our fantastic location and dynamics of the city, we are geared for success,” the general manager said, adding that some great initiatives by the government, such as the recently enforced total ban on smoking in indoor public areas across the city, also helped the hotel improve and enhance its service offerings.

“Give great services, gradually increase the price and that is the effective model to grow any business,” he said.

The property recently refurbished its wellness facilities. Alpine Mountain quality air — five times purer than what can be breathed in the outside — is now being offered at its gym and the spa has also been upgraded.

A 15-year veteran with Carlson, Finlayson has established a track record in achieving challenging goals for profitability. His last assignment in the city — to turn around a hotel which was losing millions of yuan a year — was a big success after a total refurbishment under his control.

The property moved into profit within 6 months and is now among the top performers in the group.

“The happiest thing I like to do is to drive extra profit through the business. No apologies for that and that’s why I am in the business,” he said.

He also takes pleasure in pleasing his customers.

“Number one, I like to make our owners happy. And I love seeing customers delighted in our service,” he said.

“Watching the team enjoy their work and assisting them in growth and becoming general managers is the most rewarding part of this job and what I am passionate about.”

A strong believer in service, Finlayson always tries to spend as little time as possible in the office.

What he likes to do is walking around the hotel, being out there in front of the customers as well as with the team so as to ensure exceptional service.

Doing Chinese lessons twice a week, the general manager has set a target for himself that he will give a comprehensive end-of-year speech in Chinese to impress the team.

An active sightseer, particularly into the bamboo forest, Finlayson enjoys sports very much and swims, golfs, skis and does short course triathlons.

“The city has come a long way. It is just so full of vibrance and now I will go onto the next stage with the city,” he said.

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