Tue, Sep 24, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Failed minister eyes position at the Grand Hotel

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite her poor showing for after only 48 days as the first female Minister of Economic Affairs, Christine Tsung's (宗才怡) political connections and experience in public relations may make up for her lack of experience in hotel management, industry watchers said yesterday.

Tsung, a crony of President Chen Shui-bian, was named chairwoman of Taipei's troubled Grand Hotel (圓山飯店) on Saturday.

"Her world vision and expertise in business management will greatly help the hotel expand its international clientele," Grand Hotel's general manager Jack Niu (鈕先鉞) said yesterday, adding that most of the hotel's 700 staff welcome the new appointment.

"We look forward to taking advantage of her good governmental resources and interpersonal relationships in bringing in business," said Hu Heng-li (胡恆麗), a spokesperson for the hotel's union.

"Her performance at China Airlines Co (華航) can't be denied. The Grand Hotel needs someone bright like her to bring out its unique selling points with regard to international marketing, business strategies and hotel events," said Victor Chou (周武), general manager of the five-star Ta Shee Resort Hotel (鴻禧大溪別館) in Taoyuan County.

Replacing Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), Tsung's appointment is still pending approval from the hotel's board, which is expected to meet at the end of this month, Niu said.

The hotel's current strategy aims to attract organizers of international conferences, upper-crust clientele and leisure travelers from central and southern Taiwan.

Founded in 1952, the Grand Hotel was listed in the 1950s among the top 10 hotels in the world. Fierce competition from the entry of international hotels in combination with poor management by bungling bureaucrats, have cost the Taipei landmark its dominant market position.

Raking in a measly NT$1.6 billion in revenues last year, this year's revenues have, so far, dropped by nearly 20 percent, Hu said.

Average room-occupancy rates are at 70 percent according to hotel officials.

Righting the semi-state-run hotel's sagging business, outdated image, inefficient management and mediocre service will be major challenges for Tsung. But before any improvements can be made, Tsung's first challenge will be implementing internal reforms that will educate and motivate hotel employees to improve their performance, pundits said.

"It's important that she befriends hotel employees and earn their support in making changes," Ta Shee's Chou said.

Tsung should take advantage of the hotel's union to act as a bridge between upper management and employees, he said.

Citing the hotel's former general manager Stanley Yen (嚴長壽) as an example, Chou said that when Yen, a well veteran hotel industry professional, was selected for the position in 1998, he failed to make serious headway because of strong opposition from the union, which later ousted him after only 18 months.

Betty Yen (嚴沁蒂), a human-resources consultant to the hotel sector and an instructor at Mingchuan University's College of Tourism (銘傳觀光學院), said the hotel's "tough" union is a major stumbling block to progress.

One such problem Stanley Yen faced was an inflexible year-end-bonus agreement, which is written into the union contract, Yen said.

Although Tsung doesn't have the hotel savvy of Stanley Yen, her close ties with the DPP administration could make a difference, she said.

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