A Hotel Heiress’ Pet Peeves

A Hotel Heiress’ Pet Peeves

Sonia Cheng – New World Hotels

Because my formal education and early career centered around the hospitality business, I am very interested in mindset changes the hospitality industry makes in response to common sense.  Since the changes in a culture’s etiquette come from the youth, this 29 year old hotel company heiress’ ideas about what proper hospitality is in today’s business traveler’s eyes influences how Chinese business society looks at practical practices of hospitality.

As published in the Wall Street Journal Asia Scene

  • November 16, 2010, 1:28 PM HKT

By Amy Ma

New World Hotels /Sonia Cheng

Sonia Cheng is no Paris Hilton. The 29-year-old granddaughter of New World Hospitality founder Cheng Yu-tung is a tough-talking Harvard-grad.

Even so, she has her work cut out for her.

As the newly named executive vice chairman of New World Hotels, Ms. Cheng will manage a $1.1 billion expansion plan in greater China: “We will do whatever it takes to be competitive within the markets we enter,” she says, noting that the company’s goal is to develop 40 hotel properties in China over the next five years – 20 are already in the pipeline. The unit of New World China Land Ltd., which was relaunched recently as New World Hospitality (from New World Hotel Management, Ltd.), currently owns eight properties in China.

Ms. Cheng is not one to forget about tradition, but there are old-school things about luxury hotels she won’t miss, as well as some new-school trends she thinks won’t last. Read about her pet peeves below and take the poll: Do you agree?

1. Too much service (in the wrong places): Bellboy service these days, says Ms. Cheng, is often more disruptive than it is helpful. “When it comes to the business traveler with one carry-on suitcase, is it really necessary to make them wait in the room while a bell boy brings up the luggage separately?” she asks.

2. Too little service (when you want it): “During check-out, why can’t the reservationist get me a car to the airport? Why do I have to walk over to concierge to arrange this?” she asks. The traditional system of labor division in hotels translates to a less seamless experience for customers.

3. Over-the-top design: “We’re taught to not judge a book by its cover, but with hotels, why are people so easily sold by design?” she asks. In her opinion, design-centric hotels run the risk of becoming gimmicky, and cutting corners in service. Sooner or later, she hopes, guests will learn to look beneath the surface.

4. Bed covers: Whenever she checks into a hotel, Ms. Cheng says the first thing she does is pull off the bed cover. “Who knows how often they wash it?” she says. “What’s wrong with a simple clean, white bed sheet? Do we need a heavy and useless bed cover to represent luxury?”

5. Too much technology: Ms. Cheng isn’t happy about how the iPad has infiltrated its way into many services at other hotels, from checking in to ordering room service. “Since when did a normal room-service menu become insufficient?” asks Ms. Cheng. She owns one at home, but she says that in hotels, the iPad and other gadgets — such as rooms with automated air conditioners and light switches — sometimes end up creating more problems than they solve.

“Of course,” she adds, “you can’t change it overnight.” But for Ms. Cheng, the sooner, the better.


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