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Hotel Corner

Torsten van Dullemen, Area Vice President, Operations and General Manager at The Excelsior, Hong Kong

Torsten van Dullemen, Area Vice President, Operations and General Manager at The Excelsior, Hong Kong shared with us his career and thoughtful perspectives on the hotel industry. 
I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands. My parents would take me to this little Italian restaurant and one time the restaurant owner was short of help. My father volunteered me. I liked it well enough and continued to work there. Subsequently, I decided to go to hotel school and began my career as a chef at one of the very first Michelin-starred restaurants. But I very quickly found my way to working in hotels.
I joined the Hyde Park Hotel in London. Since then I’ve worked in Rome, Milan, the Caribbean, London again, Thailand, India, Manila and Hong Kong. In the process, I’ve worked for the Mandarin three different times, each time coming back facing new challenges. I now look after three hotels: The Excelsior, as GM, and I oversee the Mandarin Sanya and Mandarin Guangzhou.
The Excelsior is an icon, open since 1973. The hotel has been extremely well supported by the local community over the years. It is fantastically located in Causeway Bay, known for world-class shopping and dining, and entertainment in nearby Wanchai. Our success is down to the fact that we’ve managed to deliver the fundamentals incredibly well: guest comfort, dining, value for money – and done so consistently over the years.
My favourite part of the job is its diversity. I sometimes feel like the mayor of a city. I love working with my colleagues looking after the Excelsior operationally, while being more strategically involved in the other properties I oversee. There is enormous job satisfaction when you can put a tremendous part of yourself into the job, be allowed room to be creative, and align what you do with the company’s value system.
There is no set management style to becoming a good general manager. I’ve worked with several very good GMs with contrasting styles. So, in my view, you need to be yourself and be able to motivate the team, help align them, and support your colleagues to be successful.
Hong Kong is one of the four or five great cities of the world, a truly global city, and will remain one given its connectedness. And it’s a great place to be – its sophistication, the Asian hospitality, its natural outdoors, its East-meets-West heritage. It’s a great place to raise kids.
My favourite part of Hong Kong is its natural outdoors: I am a triathlete. Here I can swim in the sea all year round; there are so many beautiful hiking trails; and I can even ride my bike around.
My three recommendations for tourists:
1. For first timers to Hong Kong, take the Star  Ferry and appreciate how magnificent the city’s harbour and skyline are.
2. If you can, find a local friend or get a guide.  Have them take you around. Be sure to walk the city, and appreciate Hong Kong’s rich heritage and all it has to offer.
3. For long distance guests, I recommend using Hong Kong as a base to visit another city, such as Bangkok, Manila or Tokyo, so you can get the most out of your travel to Asia. 
(Edited on 3 July 2018)


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