Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

The Mandarin Oriental’s new GM shows his spiritual side

Posted by Kimberly on November 2, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
November 2, 2007, page 2 (742 words)


On his first day as General Manager (GM) for the Mandarin Oriental last Saturday, Michael Ziemer ate in the staff canteen, a sight his staff found amazing.
Speaking to the Macau Daily Times as part of his first interview with local media, he said, “it’s not about me, GM, big office and sitting there.
“The most important thing for me is to get to know my team,” he said.
“The first meeting, I said to my staff to grab me and tell me what they need. I think they got the message because they’re always grabbing me!” he added.
And it’s this attitude, he said, that allows for loyalty within the ranks, “if you do the right thing here, you will have a loyalty that’s incomparable.”
Some members of the Mandarin’s staff have been  with the company since day one, he said, while others have notched up at least 20 years.
Having flown over from the Mandarin’s Munich property, whose amazing refurbishment he overlooked, Mr Ziemer stressed his excitement at being in Macau.
“It’s exciting to be here with what’s happening,” adding that it was the reputation the Mandarin had in the market that attracted him.
“There were no reservations at all. It was a done deal, in the works since July 2006,” he added, explaining that the expansion of the hotel group meant a lining up of five GM moves.
“We have a great President who won’t make any decisions until the contract is issued,” he said, referring to the length of time between decision and action.
His previous experience consisted of a Hong Kong move from Melbourne as part of the Hyatt group in 2000. After 12 years with Hyatt, he left to join the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong during which time he was promoted to hotel manager. In 2003, his move to the Mandarin Oriental was described as a “tough decision, because it was my number one competitor.”
Even though the move had been as resident Manager for eight months, as the GM had left, the Hong Kong hotel’s high profile and high pressure gave Mr Ziemer the opportunity to position the hotel strongly in the market, with those five years being “the best of my life.”
“I want to say I took  a lot of business from the Ritz,” he said, receiving the position of GM for the Mandarin in Munich as his “reward.”
“I’m beginning to get to know the team, understand the market, what important projects we’re working on and produce those to the maximum effect,” he said.
Asked to expand on what those particular projects were, he rattled off a list, including taking their Chinese restaurant Tung Yee Heen, popular with Chinese weddings, “to a new level.
“There are wonderful Chinese restaurants in Macau but we’re talking about the Oriental so I think our signature restaurant in the hotel should be our Chinese restaurant,” he said, adding that “our signature dishes, like dim sum, should be the best in Macau.”
The second project on his list happens to be staff-related and appropriately called, ‘heart of house’, whereby the employee experience of their 400 staff will be enhanced, thanks to a development team.
With the new opening of Tung Yee Heen scheduled for Chinese New Year, a party looks set to be held there, including several other activities held at the hotel over that period.
The Mandarin Oriental Macau had been without a  GM since August, when Pierre Barthes left for Beijing, leaving Resident Manager Gigi Vega to fill the gap until Mr Ziemer’s arrival last week.
“Gigi had been doing a wonderful job as caretaker but the staff were very happy that their leader had arrived,” said Mr Ziemer laughingly.
Having spent his 45th birthday at the hotel surrounded by cakes from his staff on Wednesday, he added that “I’ve made it clear I’m here for no less than three years.”
The feng shui-addict had his feng shui master in his office “before I’d even stepped in, adding that “I’m spiritual at the best of times,” and was appropriately given a gift by his staff of his Chinese name in calligraphy for his wall.
He’s all too aware of the competition but adds that “we have a niche in the market [an oasis of a retreat within the city]. What we have to do is improve what we have.”
Judging by his plans for the near future, the improvement’s well on its way.


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