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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, MCI Group

The Dangling Conversation

It was an unlikely gathering. An Irishman, a Singaporean, a super elegant Indian lady and a very pretty Chinese girl. The dinner had been spectacular. Mixed appetisers – baked crab meat, table tossed Caesar salad and freshly cut micro-thin slices of top grade Parma ham – followed by Kobe beef on the bone and lobster with all the trimmings, accompanied by a Peter Lehmann Shiraz Barossa. Dessert had been whimsically theatrical with lots of table side conjuring, mixing and dramatic flourishes.

For an assembly that barely shared a common tongue – although everyone spoke excellent English – the conversation sparkled and shone like bright sun dancing on the summer ocean. Director of Sales and Marketing, Chris Kang shared a delightful story about chance and fortune. Close to his former hotel a truck had miraculously escaped certain damage following a freak storm. A colleague of his insisted that they play the lotto with various combinations of the numbers on its licence plate. Playing all of the combinations – a total of 24 – required an investment of over $400 so Chris sold on shares in the investment to interested colleagues. He retained the final 20% for himself and – you’ve guessed it – produced the winning combination!

We enjoyed this convivial repast at The Meet, one of three hugely creative food and beverage outlets at The Kerry Hotel, Pudong. Chris (Singapore) and Lorraine (Shanghai) were our delightful and gracious hosts. Priti (Delhi) and I (Dublin), the delighted and grateful guests. It proved one more time: “when people come together, magic happens”.

The Kerry Hotel, Pudong

The host hotel, in one word, is amazing. A new brand departure for Shangri La, the Kerry Hotel is uncompromising 5 star luxury with a decidedly contemporary “nose” and airy, casual “notes”. I borrow the viniculture terms from Leon Michelson, brewmaster at The Brew, another of the food and beverage outlets in the hotel. For a very engaging pre-prandial hour, Leon took Priti and I first through the brewing process and then through a tutored beer tasting, sharing his impressive knowledge and contagious passion in equal measure. A Kiwi by birth and by attitude, Leon roamed his habitat in shorts and flipflops as naturally as a lion in the bush. I loved the Belgian Blonde (don’t we all!) while Priti opted for the Indian Pale Ale (as you do if you’re from Dehli!)

Where is Shanghai’s largest ballroom?

Sales Manager and former California resident Samantha Tsang led an exhaustive site inspection of the property which is part of an extensive mixed development created by HK based Kuok enterprises, owners of Shangri La. Located in Nanjing Lu, an unexpectedly leafy suburb of the Pudong New Area, and close to Zhangjiang Industrial Park, the Kerry Centre comprises Office/Retail, Hotel and Serviced Apartments in three separate but interconnected towers, adjacent to the capacious and eminently flexible Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC).The Kerry Hotel itself boasts 574 guest rooms all with marble-topped bar counters, free mini-bars and floor to ceiling vistas of the iconic Shanghai skyline. On the 3rd floor you can access hectares of meetings space including 26 breakout rooms and Shanghai’s largest ballroom with a 9m high ceiling and space for 1500 formal diners.

Jumeirah comes to town

Jumeirah makes its Asian debut less than 50m from the Kerry Hotel with a property that takes your breath away. Designed by starchitect Arata Isozaki (LA Museum of Contemporary Art) with interiors by KCA International (Burj el Arab) this is a veritable labour of love for its owner and CEO of Zendai Group, Dai Zhi Kang. A contemporary Lorenzo de’Medici, Dai Zhi Kang has created a hospitality experience that touches your body, mind and soul and draw you into the profound layered richness of Chinese traditions and culture. Combining specially commissioned art works with pieces from Dai Zhi Kang’s own private collection, Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel oozes individuality and personifies the brand’s tagline “Stay Different”.

Persistent and Loquacious

My good friend Austin Frost, recently appointed as Jumeriah’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Europe, connected me with Catherine Fang, the uber- charming, pleasantly persistent property-based Director of Sales. We sat in the vast lobby with General Manager, Akram Touma, enjoying perfectly made espressos, being mesmerized in a physical space of beautiful art, perfectly positioned to maximise feng shui. Akram’s eloquent poetic musings where matched by his commercial acumen as he ensured, with Catherine, that I saw everything that had to be seen.

Feng shui

Besides the 5 food and beverage outlets – two of which are already award winning – there is an extraordinary banquet and events suite with a capacity for over 500 and 400 guest rooms with a minimum floor area of 40sqm. Guest rooms are contemporary minimalist in browns and creams with dark wood floors and semi-open bathrooms, all with double vanity units and rain showers. Cutting edge design is in evidence throughout with individual art pieces and contemporary Chinese Scholar chairs. Design symbolism is heavily prevalent too with circles (symbolising heaven) in squares (symbolising earth) appearing everywhere most notably in the stunning infinity garden which is located in the space between the hotel building and the adjacent retail/artistic centre.

With easy access to Pudong International Airport, Jumeirah is a precious addition to an amazing city. With its neighbour, The Kerry Hotel, it offers a truly alternative Shanghai experience for corporate meeting and incentives where too-easy city access might prove distracting to your event objectives.

SPECIAL NOTE: Both Jumeirah and The Kerry Hotel offer free high speed internet access throughout the hotel. Big respect!

Padraic Gilligan is Vice President of Industry Relations at MCI. He is in Shanghai on the occasion of the MCI Academy, Asia Edition where over 120 MCI talents from all over the APAC region are gathered for a week of learning and development. Padraic is also VP of Ovation Global DMC, MCI’s destination services division. There are MCI and Ovation offices in Shanghai (frankie.gao@mci-group.com) and Beijing (richard. rheindorf@ovationdmc.com) and at 45 other cities globally.

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2 thoughts on “Shanghai Surprises (Part 1) – when people come together, magic happens!

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