Manuel Quiros Arroyo has spent the last 20 years working in hospitality all around Europe and Asia. Newly arrived in Xi’an, he is now the general manager of the Gran Melia Hotel in Qujiang. Recently, he gave us some time in his busy schedule to chat about the hospitality industry, his impressions of China and more.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity]
In your career in hospitality, you’ve traveled and worked all over the world. How is China unique to other places you’ve lived?
This is only two weeks here in China, I’m still trying to settle down and to catch up with the city, with the team, with the culture and everything. But, the first feeling/ the first impression, is pretty good, so far for me is very positive. My previous experience in China was just for a short stay in 2010, for business and short trips to China to attend the EXPO 2010 hold in Shanghai. But now, here in Xi’an, what I realizeis that the lifestyle here in Xi’an is a bit different when compared to the big cities, hectic cities like Shanghai or Beijing. The people are more warm, more friendly.
You have proficiency in 5 languages; do you have any plans to learn Chinese?
I have promised myself to learn the Chinese language. Obviously, I don’t expect to speak fluent Chinese in a few months, or even a few years, but at least I will get some knowledge, some basic skills to communicate with the huge team I’m leading, and also with the guests. It’s the best way to interact and to know about the place where you are, to mingle with the people, not only here in the hotel but outside as well.
What were your first impressions of China and Xi’an?
Obviously there are some cultural differences, some can even shock you…but my experience so far has been greatly positive. The food is one of my favorites. I’m a hotelier, but my background is in [Food and Beverage]. Definitely I like to explore different foods and always try something different. Wherever you go, you have to try the food, to know about the culture, to know about the people, as some people said “food is the best representative of the local culture.” Even if you don’t like it, just try it. China is unique, and the experience is unique—something that I learned was that Xi’an is very well known within China because of the food and the noodles and all these things. So I already had the opportunity to try, not only here in the hotel but also outside the hotel, some of these local recipes, local delights, and I have to say I really like it. The only problem is the spice—you know, how spicy it is! I accept something like medium/medium-low, not very spicy. I’m still not so brave to try the authentic Chinese food with all the spice they add to the meals.
How can the Gran Melia stand out in this crowded market?
In this industry all the big players are from America, UK, France, Canada. We’re not so big, but we have our unique [Spanish] identity. We’re proud of our passion for service. I think we’re the only ones to transmit this passion for service. It’s not only about facilities or location, we’re talking about hospitality, how they feel in our hotels. Spain and China also have some similar characteristics. We have some things that are very similar.
What’s your favorite part of the hotel?
It’s the lobby. It’s the “wow” effect. When you’re stepping into the lobby, into the hotel, I think it’s the most impressive area in this hotel. It’s big, it’s full of light, it transmits something about how this place is unique, a place you’ll find to be different.
What are your plans for the Gran Melia under your leadership?
This hotel in October will celebrate its 4th anniversary. Four years, it doesn’t seem like much…but this destination is so competitive now, we need to refresh a little bit. We cannot change the whole concept, but we’re following our philosophy to introduce something different, something new. We’re planning to launch our new culture of service. We have already trained all of our staff, all of our team, and it will be launched next month. It’s about new standards of service. We’re also going to introduce new uniforms for the staff and new ways to do our job.
This kind of hotel is not only about accommodations—we’re not just talking about rooms, we’re talking about the experience, and part of this is the F&B. As I mentioned before, my background is in F&B. We are the only Spanish hotel in the city, we host DUO, the only Spanish restaurant in the city, and now we’re going to refresh not only the menu but the concept as well. DUO is well recognized as one of the best restaurants in the city. It’s not that we’re not satisfied, but it’s not enough for us. We need to change a little bit, because at the end of the day we have some regular guests that are always looking for something new. Now we are working on a new concept for the F&B, something different. It will take a few months to develop this concept.
How can people living in the area best enjoy the Gran Melia hotel?
Locals may prefer to stay home, but staying in a hotel like this is more about the experience. You can be in the city, but you can have some unique experiences, for example, talking about Xi’an and talking about the gastronomy, we can offer different experiences like all-day dining, from traditional local food to our Spanish cuisine. You can also enjoy and relax in our indoor Swimming Pool or YHI SPA; you can swim or have a nice, relaxing treatment. It’s not only about the hotel itself, in the sense that we cannot forget that we are in the center of [Qujiang], the cultural heritage of Xi’an is centered here, it’s walking distance from the hotel. You can experience and enjoy a great break in the city…Sometimes we need to have these breaks in our city. Sometimes a big city like Xi’an, with this history, I’m sure that most of the people from Xi’an they don’t know everything about Xi’an, about the heritage and the culture. We also have the concert hall nearby. There are a lot of things that are going on, and we’re not always aware of this. Why not enjoy a weekend in the city?