Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi
Local Nutrients, Rich Experience
Taking home top honors in this year's CommonWealth Magazine Golden Service Awards, the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi continually challenges itself to create a unique sensory experience for visitors.
Local Nutrients, Rich ExperienceBy Yueh-lin Ma
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 503 )
Blue skies, lush greenery, and hot air balloons.
On a warm summer evening in Yilan, an olive green hot air balloon carrying tourists slowly ascends 15 stories into the air as a young woman leans over the edge of the basket excitedly flashing the "victory" sign, petrified that her friends below will miss this rare photo op.
"Man, you just don"t know – I was almost done in by this balloon," exclaims Hotel Royal Group CEO and Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi general manager Winston Shen, his eyes wide.
Last year's Taitung County government-sponsored international hot air balloon festival touched off a wave of interest in hot air balloon rides. "During our staff meetings, colleagues would ask why we didn't have one, and could we bring one to Yilan?" Shen recalls.
So early this year, the hotel began preparations, inquiring with the Taitung County government, applying for a license from the Civil Aviation Administration and seeking out professional trainers, with even Shen himself learning how to assist in the process of inflating the balloon using natural gas to heat the air.
In July, the hot air balloon rides became the most popular activity at the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi, with hotel guests lining up each evening at 5 o'clock for a trip aloft, weather conditions permitting.
"Travel is a kind of unique sensory experience, so each year we come up with an abstract theme, and then discuss how we'll go about getting our guests to experience that in some tangible way," Shen says.
Reining in his playful tone, Shen turns serious when he relates that this year's theme is "sharing," and that riding in a hot air balloon is like sharing the dream of flying with others.
Since its grand opening eight years ago, the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi has become the first among Taiwan"s five-star hotels to offer "one night, two meals" service for guests. It emphasizes an in-depth travel experience in a single locale, and makes every effort to keep guests on the hotel grounds enjoying the services.
In this year's CommonWealth Magazine Golden Service Awards, the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi not only managed to move from second to first place in the "International Tourist Hotel" category, but also snared the top spot for "Five-star Hotel Buffet," the first time ratings have been awarded in that category.
"The Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi has cultivated a group of fans, and they have a lot of regulars. Particularly now with easier access through the Syueshan Tunnel, a lot of Taipei metropolitan area residents like going there," observes Victor Chang, general manager of the Palais de Chine Hotel in Taipei.
"Their buffet is tasty and has a lot of variety," says Lin Cheng-sung, general manager of the Evergreen Resort Hotel Jiaosi, and the view from the Hotel Royal"s floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Lanyang plain could be the only condiment your meal will require.
But the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi certainly didn't rely solely on enchanting scenery to snag top honors in two categories.
Beginning at the end of 2010, the hotel started quietly changing the offerings on its buffet menu.
"People eating at buffets today want to eat well and not just fill themselves up. They want to enjoy fine food while keeping fit at the same time," says Winston Shen. Once offering only salad, the Hotel Royal buffet has now increased the ratio of vegetable offerings to 30 percent.
To provide top-quality vegetarian cuisine, the hotel eschews the use of processed vegetarian foods, and must contend with the challenges of the short shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Among the hotel's guests, about 40 percent are regulars (five or more visits). To keep things fresh for the regulars, in addition to coming up with a new experiential theme each year, the hotel is continuously pushing the envelope with regard to hotel industry standard operating procedures as well.
Guests enjoying a leisurely vacation may not want to get up for breakfast so early, so for the past two years the hotel has been serving brunch until 2 pm. It's not just the adjustments to be made for two different mealtimes; there's also the question of how to combine Chinese, Western and Japanese menu items to prepare a meal that guests truly want. Though there have been bumps along the way, the process is being constantly improved.
Staff, Guests Sow Seeds Together
The character of a resort hotel has often been associated with expansive grounds, and Winston Shen is keenly aware of this fundamental. Not only does he insist on use of local ingredients, he even leads staff in cultivating organic rice on a 2,000-ping plot of land the hotel has leased in Yilan County"s nearby Singjian Village.
"I often feel that I love this land of Yilan County even more than my staff members do, maybe because they were born and grew up here in this environment and don't think there's anything so remarkable about it," Shen is fond of saying. Nothing speaks louder than action, so he encourages staff to spend two two-hour shifts each month working the land.
"If you're late for work, that's okay – just grab a taxi," Shen chuckles.
From staff and guests sowing seeds together, to collaborating with local writer Huang Chun-ming to produce 550 scarecrows with local farmers, Yilan's local color is in abundance. The Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi always finds a way, both in serving its guests and in serving the land.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy