Welcome to english.eastday.com.Today is
Follow us @
Contribute to us!










Home >> Article
Joseph Chong: a Malaysian’s heart belonging to Shanghai
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2019-11-18 10:35

Since 1989, a series of Magnolia Awards have been given as recognition of the contributions foreigners in Shanghai have made to the city, and 42 foreigners recommended by the Huangpu District have won this award.

In order to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Shanghai Magnolia Awards, Huangpu District plans to hold a celebration activity in November.

Eastday has therefore especially launched a series of exclusive interviews to review these award winners’ stories in Huangpu District and Shanghai.

(Team The Peninsula poses for a photo. Its slogan for the upcoming celebration is "Forge ahead with glory".)

Joseph Chong: a Malaysian’s heart belonging to Shanghai

At 32 East Zhongshan Road No. 1 lies The Peninsula Shanghai, a hotel which is celebrating its tenth year in the city. Home to countless guests from around the world, the hotel has also been a witness to the Bund area’s recent growth in the city’s Huangpu District. Joseph Chong from Malaysia has been with the hotel, and the Bund, for a decade since 2009.

(The Peninsula Shanghai)

Because of The Peninsula Shanghai, he found his second home in Shanghai. Currently a Hong Kong resident, he returns to Shanghai a few times every year to oversee the hotel’s operation. He still misses Shanghai, like the spring onion noodles, xiaolongbao, the city’s landscape and its blend of tradition and modernity. “You never get tired in Shanghai.” Though he can find Shanghai cuisine in Hong Kong, for him, when you are enjoying food, the environment and culture are very important. If it is not in the same place, even the same food does not taste right.

Sometimes during the interview, Joseph chatted with his colleague in fluent Cantonese. He told the reporter, “If you can speak Mandarin, Cantonese is very easy to learn. But what is embarrassing is that my Mandarin is poor.” However, his children are not like him. With pride he said, “My daughter came to Beijing with me at the age of 3, and the younger son came to Shanghai when he was six weeks old. Together, they have lived in China for 15 years. They can understand Chinese characters, and they have more Chinese than foreign friends.”

(Joseph Chong is a winner of the 2018 Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award)

A uniformed profession

In fact, it is a coincidence that Joseph joined the hotel industry. From a very young age, his dream was to become a pilot, but he had to give it up because of certain medical criteria. Then a person asked him why he wanted to be a pilot, besides a longing for the sky. Joseph later found his dream was based on his yearning for uniforms, which he considered to be a symbol of consistency and discipline. The smart uniform of hotels gave him the same feeling, so he joined the hotel industry. He started his career in 1989 from the lobby of The Regency Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Now he is Area Vice President & Managing Director, The Peninsula Hong Kong and The Peninsula Shanghai.

In 2009, Joseph Chong led the opening of The Peninsula Shanghai. The hotel is a comeback of the Kadoorie family, the founders of the The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels. The memory of the hotel’s grand opening ceremony is still fresh in many veteran employees’ and Joseph’s minds: the red carpet stretched to East Beijing Road, and many celebrities in Shanghai who came to offer congratulations.

(The groundbreaking ceremony in 2006)

Joseph is full of emotion speaking of the preparation of the hotel. From 2006, the construction which took place on the site of the former Shanghai Friendship Store, took three years. The workers had to overcome many difficulties. For instance, the construction and decoration, from the installation of water pipes to the painting of walls, was affected by the changing seasons.

The hotel industry is a people industry, said Joseph. Each and every one he has met here has been memorable for him. A plethora of stories, of both joy and sorrow, have happened all around him. But in general, the ten years at The Peninsula Shanghai have been a happy time for Joseph. After the hotel was opened, he had a chance to work in another country, but at last he chose to stay because the place needed him. Under his leadership, The Peninsula Shanghai has been one of the world’s top luxury hotels for seven consecutive years. In 2015 and 2016, it was named the Best Hotel in Asia by travel magazine Travel+ Leisure (USA).

For many people, The Peninsula Shanghai is a timeless legend, and a beacon for the luxury hotel industry. “Many people use five stars, premium, luxury and other words to describe hotels, but I think luxury has a different meaning,” said Joseph. He put forward a concept called “discreet luxury”: to respect the privacy of guests and giving them discreet attention. “What many guests want is not meticulous attention, but their own privacy in the hotel, which is why many people are willing to stay at our hotel.”

A commitment to the Bund

Looking over the Huangpu River, The Peninsula Shanghai has been the only newly-erected building in the Bund area for the past seven decades. One of the hotel’s development ideas was to pay tribute to the Bund heritage. “We got this land and we promised to the Shanghai government that the hotel would be part of the development of the Bund area. It would give life to the area,” recalled Joseph. In order to achieve the overall consistency, the stone materials used for the hotel’s façade were the same as those used for the ancient buildings along the Bund.

Also, to fulfill the commitment, Joseph spares no effort to serve as an “ambassador” of the Bund culture. Under his initiation, the annual Tour de Bund was organized in the downtown of Shanghai. More than 2,000 athletes from China and abroad have been attracted to Shanghai to compete. In 2014, the hotel became the venue for the China Squash Open final. Each year, the champions pose for a photo with the glamorous Bund as the background, making the city icon part of the history of the sport of squash.

In Joseph’s eyes, the Bund defines Shanghai, as few foreigners do not know the Bund. Over the past decade, the Malaysian hotelier has been paying tribute to Shanghai, the Paris of the Orient.

The Peninsula Academy is an interesting tradition of The Peninsula. In Shanghai, Joseph and his team have designed a selection of inspired, bespoke experiences that aim to immerse the guests in the city’s local communities. People can tour the city by motor tricycle, visit the Shanghai Auto Museum or have a face-to-face talk with Shanghai designers, so as to fully experience the metropolis.

A part of Shanghai

Before 2009, Joseph worked for hotels in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Beijing. When he first arrived in Shanghai, the renovation of the Bund was in full swing. “They moved the Waibaidu Bridge and then reset it intact,” he said, full of surprise. Now, the waterfront on the Bund has become one of the city’s most important public venues, and the Bund area now has a totally different skyline.

For Joseph, running a hotel in Shanghai is different from that in other Asian cities. When he first came here, Shanghai was still a “young” city. In just a few years, he was impressed by the city’s vitality and innovation. Digital technology is developing so rapidly in China, especially here in Shanghai.

“If you go to the restaurant, there is no menu on the table. You scan the QR code to order. No other country can do this, but I see it in Shanghai.” This is also true in the hotel industry. Services like check-in, check-out, catering reservations, and parking can all be simplified. Efficient and modern services bring great convenience to people’s lives. As he said, Shanghai’s pursuit for excellence has never stopped, as there is a huge energy behind its development, and the energy is long term.

Besides being an executive of The Peninsula Shanghai, Joseph is also vice president of the Huangpu District Overseas Chinese Chamber of Commerce. He and his fellows share wisdom and utilize their resources for the optimization of Shanghai’s business climate. With his facilitation, the Bund and Paris’s Rue Saint-Honoré became sister blocks.

Observing that China’s, and even the world’s, hotel industry is undergoing a transformation, Joseph offered some advice: more resources need to be invested in China's service industry for staff training, and the quality of services needs to be benchmarked against international standards. He hopes to see more hotel management schools, not only in first-tier cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu, but also in second and third-tier cities.

On the day of the media interview, Joseph attended a meeting, where he learned that Huangpu District is strengthening the construction of the BundFinancial AgglomerationZone. He vowed to play his role in the chamber of commerce and make dialogues with government departments. “I hope in the continuous development of Shanghai, I can be part of it. I belong to Shanghai,” he added.

(Photos provided by The Peninsula Shanghai)