Beijing born and raised, Billy Jin has watched the city flourish in his 15 plus year career in hospitality. Having worked for Shangri-La, Fairmont, and numerous other hotels, he now represents both of Swire’s hotels in Beijing: EAST Beijing and The Opposite House.

What is your take on the hotel scene in Beijing? What changes have you seen over the past ten years?
There’s been tremendous growth not only in the hotel industry in Beijing but in the city as a whole. Customers have more and more choice. There are now more hotels with unique concepts and more new brands entering China. This encourages hotels to continue to better themselves. We have more expats with international hotel experience coming to Beijing bringing their experience and knowledge. Take our Area General Manager, Peter Wynne, for example. He brings his years of experience operating luxury hotels to The Opposite House. EAST's General Manager Michael Faulkner brings his international sales experience from London and Sydney to Beijing, as well as a personality and style that is reflected in everything that’s done at EAST. 

What challenges have you encountered in managing two different hotels at once?
I need to balance the needs of both hotels and allocate financial resources, people, and time. EAST is located close to 798. The Opposite House is located in the heart of Sanlitun. I attend meetings at both hotels which means I end up spending more time than I would like in traffic, although recently I started using Uber, which has made my life so much easier.

What differentiates EAST and The Opposite House?
Each of Swire’s products is unique. The hotels’ individuality is reflected in their architecture, dining, and service. EAST is a business hotel with a life. The Opposite House is a small, individual hotel with attention to detail and individualized service. We encourage individuality in both of our teams and that’s evident from their attire to the personalized customer service.

How do you view the role of food and beverage outlets in marketing a hotel?
F&B represents the image of the hotel more than any other aspect and drives sales to other outlets including rooms and meeting spaces. At EAST a good example would be XIAN. The bar has really taken off since it opened. We have had guests book meetings at EAST because they originally came to the hotel to party at XIAN and through that discovered the high quality of service we provide there.

What advice would you give to people looking to start a career in sales?
It’s a job that’s demanding and requires you to have the ability to deal with pressure and frustration. We meet people from every industry, which means we need to be able to proactively deal with all types of personalities and demands. However, this is a very rewarding learning curve. There’s a Chinese idiom, “learn young, learn fair,” which tell us that life is a continuous learning journey. I guess the best advice I can give to someone looking to start a career in sales is to always think outside of the box.

What plans do you have coming up for both hotels in 2015?
We’re going to continue to come up with creative dining events at both hotels as well as partnerships with international brands.   At EAST we will continue to partner with Beijing’s favourite chefs for our Carnivore's Club dinners and XIAN will be introducing another amazing brand to the Beijing music scene pretty soon.
At The Opposite House we’re excited to showcase our new meeting space that’s scheduled to open in April.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Beijing? Any hidden gems we should know about?
I like all kinds of restaurants. Sometimes my food cravings take me to small hole-in-the-wall places where waiters shout your orders to the kitchen but the food is always authentic and delicious. Other times I go for something a bit more contemporary. Even before I joined Swire I would go to Jing Yaa Tang for Peking duck. For a more traditionally Beijing flavor I like to go to Xiaodiaolitang. It’s not exactly “hidden,” but it’s definitely a gem. There’s always a line out the door and the food is so good that it brings me back to my childhood.

And finally, we always have to ask, what is your “desert island” dish (i.e. if you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life)?
I could eat tuna fish croissants for the rest of my life.  If you’ve never tried one, please head over to Village Café.  They’re absolutely delicious. 

Note: This is an expanded version of the Dining Q&A that ran in the February issue of the Beijinger.

More stories by this author here.

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Photos courtesy of EAST, Beijing

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