China is both an opportunity and a vocation
Not a boring office job! That is why Andrea Wiedemann, who says she is adventurous, opted for the hotel industry. Today, her job is more varied than ever as she is now Director of Sales and Marketing at the Hyatt on the Bund luxury hotel in Shanghai. And she has a qualification that distinguishes her from many other Germans: she speaks fluent Mandarin. “I started learning the language during my studies at IUBH University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef”, says Wiedemann. “My parents encouraged me. At the time, they said China is the land of the future. And they were right! I went to Raffles in Peking for my first internship and right after graduation went to China for Hyatt.”
The 34 year old was born and raised in Munich. “The plan was to stay in China for two years and then go to Mexico. I have now been in China for ten years. This is Hyatt’s fault,” she says with a wink of the eye.
Andrea Wiedemann got her first management position as restaurant manager at the Hyatt Regency Jin City in Tianjin – “I was determined to get a job in management”. After one and a half years, she moved to the sales department and was then eighteen months in Beijing before coming to the Hyatt on the Bund in Shanghai as sales manager. First, she was promoted to Associate Director of Sales and then given full responsibility for sales and marketing. The 5-star hotel has 620 rooms (including 48 suites) and 1900 square metres of meeting space. The 33-story building is located just three kilometres from the city centre and overlooks the city skyline and river.
Wiedemann finds the growth of the hotel industry in Shanghai and Chinese appreciation for luxury hotels “very interesting”: the Chinese now have more disposable income and spend more money for overnight stays in 5-star hotels. This is a recent development in the last two to three years. According to her experience, the Chinese also act very spontaneously and book and pay with their mobile phones. It therefore happens that on one day we receive 60 to 120 reservations for the very same day. “This is unthinkable in other markets and is very challenging for the operations of, for example the front desk, housekeeping and F&B.” One has to be open minded for a country where processes work differently and people think differently.
Be ready to adapt
“I have learned to not make comparisons with my homeland,” says Wiedemann. She considers it a plus that she went overseas “very early”. “With 30 you may not go away any more.” However, you must be willing to adapt. For example, customer events in the evening and on weekends do not count as overtime.
But Wiedemann looks at the overall package and would encourage others to do the same. However, it is getting more difficult to get a work visa. The Chinese government now closely examines if a local employee can do the job and if the foreign applicant really has the necessary experience. “Fortunately, I have been here long enough and have the necessary work experience,” says Wiedemann.
So, you did everything the right way? “Almost,” says Wiedemann. She herself opted to study right after finishing high school. “I now advise young people who are starting their career to do a training programme before studying. Hotel work is very practical. The experience one gets from a training programme is helpful.”
This article was published in AHGZ – Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomie-Zeitung, the only weekly newspaper for hotel and restaurant business in Germany.