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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Snapshot Of The Men And Women Behind The Luxury That Is Shangri-La

Through the years, Shangri-La has welcomed guests into the sanctuary of its hotels and resorts with warmth and graciousness. 


The unique sense of arrival is created by attentive and caring colleagues who keep hospitality at the forefront and genuine from the heart.  The same level of dedication persists in all hotel areas so that whether it is a floral display, tea service or dining experience, a Shangri-La moment awaits every guest.  More than 40,000 colleagues worldwide bring Shangri-La’s signature hallmarks to life.

At the group’s flagship, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, guests are drawn to the hotel’s "green thumb" - Mohd Kassim bin Abdulla, or “Kassim” as he is known. 

 He has tended the hotel’s 15-acre garden for four decades.  Alongside 200 Japanese koi and tumbling waterfalls, Kassim and nine gardeners water and prune over 110 varieties of 133,000 plants, tropical flowers and fruit trees, ensuring the garden retains its widely known moniker as Singapore’s second botanic garden.  Even the hotel’s new Garden Wing herb garden - with 82 different plants that possess healing properties - is nurtured by the team of green fingers.

Having witnessed hotel milestones – the refurbishment of the Tower Wing, Garden Wing and The Valley Wing – Kassim delights in sharing memories of the transformations while highlighting notable herbs and plants on his garden tour every Friday and Saturday morning.  In addition to his days among the flora and fauna, Kassim creates vivid landscaping designs for the hotel’s public areas, returning the plants to the lush gardens after use.

Across continents at one of Shangri-La’s Canadian hotels is Sheena Brady.  As the tea sommelier for Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, she understands that serving tea to welcome guests is a gesture and sign of respect that dates back thousands of years.  To ensure each cup of tea is at its best, Sheena tastes the teas daily as the leaves, like all natural products, can vary by season and storage conditions.  Her interpretation of the tea drinking culture extends to working with the hotel’s bartenders and culinary team to concoct tea-infused beverages and cocktails and tea-infused pastries from the hotel’s 68 premium teas.

When not crafting a brew to suit a guest’s mood, Sheena prepares bespoke tea amenities and gifts, and coordinates tea ceremonies for events.  This autumn, she will offer tea enthusiasts a series of classes on tea basics, tea history, cooking with tea, food and tea pairings, and tea cocktails.

IMGEqually dedicated to elevating guests’ experience is Sheena’s counterpart, Kenneth Law, at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong.  One of only a few qualified and nationally recognised tea masters in Hong Kong, Kenneth’s knowledge of the history of tea and how it is grown, harvested and processed is an appreciation he imparts with his peers-in-training.  Keen to keep traditions intact, Kenneth stocks the hotel and its long-established Michelin two-star Shang Palace’s tea collection with rare and aged teas, namely Private Reserve 1998 Fermented Ripe Pu’Er, which is exclusively owned by Shangri-La; Private Reserve 2000 Unfermented Raw Pu’Er and other fine classifications.

When it comes to artistic expression, Kerry Hotel, Pudong in Shanghai has a K-pop star of another genre.  François Pietri, the hotel’s executive pastry chef, has literately embraced the hotel’s spirited philosophy.  Inspired by his fast-paced adopted home, he created Kerry Pops - a dessert to be eaten on the go.  The sweet mini globes are made in either chocolate, vanilla or fruity biscuit and wrapped with dark, white or flavoured chocolate.  Decorated with multi-coloured sprinkles and swirls, the six varieties are a daily sell out at the hotel’s The Cook.

Art in another form is exhibited at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong.  Guests are greeted in the lobby by three octagonal-shaped chandeliers, each weighing three tonnes and spanning over two metres in diametre.  The hotel pays further homage to crystal with 606 Austrian chandeliers in the guestrooms and 161 chandeliers dotted around the public areas.  Hand-crafted by artisans to harmonise the hotel’s classic design, the chandeliers are largely pendant and tear drop styles, which are characteristic of the light installations at other Shangri-La hotels in Asia.

Keeping the chandeliers spotless is the responsibility of Executive Housekeeper Christine Wong.  Her task of cleaning the light features every three months turns into a meticulous melody when more than a million pieces of crystal are hand treated.

From crystals to corals: Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu in the Philippines was the group’s first resort to establish a six-hectare marine sanctuary for over 160 species of fish, clams and coral as part of Shangri-La’s Reef Care Project.

Managing the sanctuary and keeping its occupants “under her wing” is Irene Tan, the resort’s marine biologist.  With her caring nature, she observes the plant and animal life forms from above and below the water.  Her commitment to the surrounding marine life has enabled developments to be initiated for the sanctuary; when not on dry land, Irene is at coastal and dive clean-ups.  While directing tours of the sanctuary, she humbly shares details of the on-going coral recovery programmes and how ships were sunk to form artificial reefs and encourage coral and fish proliferation.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s premier hotel companies, currently owns and/or manages more than 80 hotels under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of over 34,000.  Over four decades the group has established its brand hallmark of “hospitality from the heart”.  

The group has a substantial development pipeline with upcoming projects in mainland China, India, Mongolia, Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.  For more information and reservations, please contact a travel professional or access the website at

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