Stop 3: Guangzhou

The financial district of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, at night.

The financial district of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, at night.

Day 7: May 16, 2013 – Lauren Lundberg

This morning, we checked out of the Shangri-La in Shenzhen and visited the Brownshoe office in Dongguan City. We started by touring the facility, where they design shoes. Vice President of Talent Management, Harlan Chang, presented to our class. He went into details about their logo colors that appear to outline the shape of an abstract footprint. The black represents their mission, red is family, purple is fashion and green is healthy living. Afterwards, Harlan Chang came with our class to shop at a local mall for purses and shoes.

Our next company visit was the Chimelong resort, located in Guangzhou. The hotel is similar to the Animal Kingdom resort in Orlando because they have live animals and a park. Chimelong’s goal is to be the largest safari in the world. Chimelong has over 100 white tigers, which is by far the largest collection in the world.

After the Chimelong presentation, we checked into our hotel in Guangzhou and had free time for the rest of the evening. John Parady and I wanted to visit the second tallest building in the world called the Canton Tower. We were hoping to take a taxi but since there were none available we adventurously took a motorcycle with a seat for two. The motorcycle went on the road, sidewalk and even against traffic! It was probably more efficient than taking a cab. Once at the Canton Tower, we were able to get a student discount to visit the top floors. The new building was completed in 2012. At the top, there are extensions that one can walk out onto with glass floors, walls and ceilings. The view from the tower was so unique, the surrounding buildings and ground light up with bright colors at night. This was my favorite city to visit!

Company visit with Chimelong in Guangzhou.

Company visit with Chimelong in Guangzhou.

Day 7: May 16, 2013 – Austin English

Immediately upon entering the grounds of Chimelong, I was struck with how similar the design was to Animal Kingdom. Our presenter, Tony Sze, met us at the convention center and took an hour to explain what the property is all about. He was previously a high-ranking executive with the organization and now serves as a senior consultant. Tony explained that he brought the “western system of banking” to the company. The facts and figures, Tony threw at us were absolutely astronomical. They own 150 white tigers (1/3 of the world population), operate a 5900-room hotel, and operate a water park, safari, circus, zoo, theme park, golf course and convention center. The company is still owned by a single proprietor, and construction on the second site begins soon.

Company visit with Brown Shoe company outside of Guangzhou.

Company visit with Brown Shoe company outside of Guangzhou.

Day 7: May 16, 2013 – Melody Huang

We checked out of Shangri-La and departed for Brown Shoe-Leeway in Dongguan. We first toured the sourcing building. It was also a factory and we got to see workers in action, creating new shoes. The whole building itself was very interesting to go through and I’m glad that we were able to see quality shoes being made with very careful hands.

The presentation hosted by Harlan was also very good and informative. Brown Shoe is very powerful in China and they have a very large purchasing operation.

We made our way to Guangzhou after a shopping excursion. Our next company visit, Chimelong, a hotel as well as a theme park. It mainly focuses around animals. We got to listen how the Chimelong came about and the extensive amounts of animals at their facilities. They have so many that they actually have to give birth control to the animals.

Company visit with Starwood in Guangzhou.

Company visit with Starwood in Guangzhou.

Day 8: May 17, 2013 – Austin English

Today was particularly exciting for me because I was finally going to see the office where my dad goes several times a year. In addition, we would be traveling to Shanghai, and I was incredibly excited to get there. That being said, I do wish we had more time in Guangzhou. It’s China’s third largest city and we only had a few hours there on our own to explore.

Although I consider myself a Starwood connoisseur, I learned a lot about the company at our visit. In 1985 the Great Wall Sheraton was the first branded international hotel to open in China, and since then Sheraton and Starwood’s other brands have been gaining loyalty. I learned was that by 2020 the Chinese outbound flow of travellers will be greatest and make up the biggest group for Starwood. Calls in China last about 30 seconds while at the other centers they are 300-400. Credit cards have not become completely widespread yet, so a dummy credit card number is used when booking customers who plan to pay cash upon check-in. Additionally, recognition in front of family and guests is valued highly in China, which translates into increased participation in the SPG program. I’m very happy I was able to help facilitate this visit because I think everybody learned a lot and enjoyed it.

The Canton Tower, located in the heart of downtown Guangzhou, stands at 1,969'. It is the tallest structure in China and the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

The Canton Tower, located in the heart of downtown Guangzhou, stands at 1,969′. It is the tallest structure in China and the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

Day 8: May 17, 2013 – Daniel Milstein

Made it to Shanghai! Earlier today, we visited the Starwood Guangzhou Customer Contact Center (CCC). Several of us dressed in suits for the first time in China. After receiving official Visitor Passes and noting the “Welcome Gators” sign at the CCC entrance, we were divided into groups and led on a tour of the entire CCC. Upon conclusion of the tour, we all sat down in the main conference room, where we were introduced to members of the CCC team, including Guangzhou CCC Site Director Patrick Wu. We were very fortunate to have Patricia (Pat) Neo, Vice President of Customer Contact Centers for the Asia-Pacific Region, present.

After the presentation, we were planned to “hook in” to some ongoing calls in the CCC to listen to the associates take calls in action, but after an extensive Q&A session, we ran out of time. As a group, we made our way out of the CCC to the attached Westin Guangzhou for an Italian lunch provided by Starwood, where we had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the CCC staff that presented earlier. It was great to be able to converse with them and ask questions in an informal and candid setting over lunch. Pat and Patrick stayed with us throughout as well. The Starwood Guangzhou CCC was one of my favorite company visits yet. It was especially fascinating to be on the other side of such a large-scale guest service operation and to see all that goes on behind the scenes to maximize the guest experience. It was apparent the Starwood team made a special effort to welcome our group and make our visit as educational as possible. Not only did we get an exclusive look at one of the largest hotel company call centers, we learned a tremendous amount of practical information about the Chinese consumer and the Chinese business landscape that significantly enhanced our understanding of how to successfully conduct business in China.

After Starwood, company visit to Y&R advertising agency, which is really cool agency that does the advertising of many major companies. Our flight to Shanghai ended up leaving around 8:30 p.m., and a few hours later we arrived here. Excited for cultural visits and potentially a massage and custom-suit tailoring tomorrow.

Company Visit at Y&R Advertising firm in Guangzhou.

Company visit at Y&R Advertising firm in Guangzhou.

Day 8: May 17, 2013 – Victoria Ramunno

Our day started off with a good breakfast at the hotel. We checked out, loaded up the bus and again we were on our way. Our first stop was the Starwood Hotels call center. It is a big office that is growing so rapidly. We first got a walking tour then we had several presenters speak. They also provided us with lunch in the hotel. Apparently, they had asked for a copy of the menu from The Swamp Restaurant in Gainesville and then replicated some of the menu items. It was so nice of them! When we were finishing up dessert, the people from Starwood gave us presents! We each got a “China Survival Kit”, basically a bag filled with chips and snacks, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and candies. We were not expecting those but we were so grateful for them.

From Starwood we took the bus to Y&R Advertising for a presentation. When we were done at Y&R, we headed to the airport for our flight to Shanghai. The flight went so fast, I read Hunger Games until I could not keep my eyes open, the just slept the rest of the way. I was exhausted. We went straight to the hotel and it is gorgeous! They just keep getting better.

We survived our first domestic flight on China Eastern Airlines from Guangzhou to Shanghai.

We experienced our first domestic flight in China on China Eastern Airlines from Guangzhou to Shanghai.