Shanghai hotels put safety first on agenda

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am

UPSCALE HOTELS IN Shanghai catering to business travellers are taking the bird flu threat seriously. They are closely monitoring developments, enforcing strict requirements on employee hygiene and buying poultry products only from certified producers.

Some hotels have even set up contingency plans for a bird flu outbreak in the city and, if necessary, for a pandemic.

'Marriott has been monitoring the avian flu situation for several months by keeping in touch with scientists and health organisations around the world,' said Kelly Sum, director of communications at the JW Marriott Shanghai. 'Marriott has a company-wide Pandemic Preparedness Task Force, with plans and procedures in place to deal with a variety of influenzas and viruses.'

The plan covers the hotel chain's 26 properties in China and Hong Kong. Staff meet with local and national agencies regularly to ensure requirements are followed.

The Portman Ritz-Carlton's corporate office has developed a similar plan. Its Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan is adapted to each hotel's specific needs.

Ralph Grippo, vice-president and area general manager of The Portman Ritz-Carlton, said the plan covered everything from housekeeping, human resources and hygiene supplies to employee training.

A 29-year-old migrant worker in Shanghai died of bird flu last week, the first human case in China's largest commercial city.

Eleven people have died of the H5N1 virus on the mainland - one in Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the real danger was not in isolated cases but in a mutation of the H5N1 virus. If it does mutate, it may spread and cause a pandemic, killing millions around the world.

Despite the threat it is business as usual for hotels in Shanghai. The city is the mainland's economic engine and business people from across the country arrive in the city daily.

Gunnar Brandberg, vice-president of business development for Hilton International, Middle East and Asia-Pacific, said the company was monitoring bird flu developments in conjunction with the WHO. The management advises guests to avoid visits to poultry farms, wild bird sanctuaries and markets selling live birds.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, whose brands include Sheraton, The Westin, Four Points by Sheraton and St. Regis, has developed a crisis and emergency plan internally with help from an external consulting firm.

Corporate communications manager Yeo Hwee Ping said the plan had been implemented in all of its Shanghai hotels as well as its properties throughout Asia.

'The health and safety of our hotel guests and employees has always been, and always will be, a critical part of our standard operating procedures,' Ms Yeo said.

It is an attitude that summarises the position of all leading hotels in Shanghai.