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Maintaining Brand Identity Amid Development: Vice President of Shangri-La Hotel Singapore

"The challenge is not to get disrupted with the noise that's out there," says Reto Klauser, the vice president and general manager of Shangri-La Hotel Singapore. 

Travel cheap, stay chic. It's an unlikely saying coming from the vice president and general manager of Shangri-La Hotel Singapore but Reto Klauser seems to embody it. According to his team, Klauser rides an electric scooter to work everyday, saving on transportation money as well as helping to save the environment.

The Swiss national has enjoyed a lifelong career with the swanky hotel group, which set up its first deluxe outpost in Singapore more than 45 years ago. The circa 1971 accommodation recently underwent developments such as the refurbishment and reopening of its Tower Wing, which was overseen by Klauser.

The concept by interior designer Ryoichi Niwata, from Japan-based Bond Design Studio, is to bring an oasis indoor. The result is not only contemporary-chic but engaging. A ceiling art installation in the new lobby is unmissable, with thousands of cascading stylised leaves, reminiscent of a tree canopy. There are also 'squashed' sculptures by Korean artist Yi Hwan-Kwon whose works are modelled after real-life children playing in the lobby-garden, one of whom is his own two-year-old kid. The space is obviously catered to both the young and young at heart.

Besides its elegant update, Klauser believes that the hotel's customer-centric culture plays a big part in its long success in Singapore. “I think that we have a very deep understanding of the Asian markets," he says. "Plus, we have been successful with marrying foreign visitors with local markets."

But with the perpetual influx of travellers, certain expectations grow, making it harder for hotel businesses in Singapore. As a result, some look for new elements to cater to the latest needs. However, Klauser is adamant on simplicity, reliability and consistency — in other words, he regards a normal switch to be far more effective in improving the guest experience today. Also, the hotel's guest rooms provide to-go cups next to your regular glass cups, allowing guests to leave the area with their cup of coffee. Little details such as these are what he believes is truly effective.

"The challenge is not to get disrupted with the noise that's out there. And to make sure we remain completely focused on the true needs of our travellers today," he says.

While it is important to be attractive to both millennials and their parents, Klauser states that the key doesn't lie in change but continuity. "We don't want to change the guests we want to attract. We just want to continue to attract."

Klauser recounts: "A very prominent businessman in the region regularly stays with us and in recent years, he's been traveling with his son. He told me that his son told him that he really loves Shangri-La. That, for us, is exactly what we want to hear.

"So, we're not trying to attract the entire world but we want to be able to understand it." Klauser advises that everyone should be mindful not to become, as he calls it, an "egg-laying and milk-giving wool-pig" — an animal that does everything that it's not supposed to.

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