Where the experts holiday: Michel L Goget

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

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Michel L Goget, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya – the first Ritz-Carlton resort in China – helmed Ritz-Carlton hotels in Atlanta, Michigan and Virginia, before heading to Hainan. Here, the Washington resident whose 20 years of hospitality experience spans seven countries, talks to CD Traveller about Australia, Alain DuCasse and why Sanya – China’s only tropical beachfront city – is fast becoming the ‘Miami of Asia’.

What do you like to do on holiday?
I like to see new places and people. Being based in Sanya on the island of Hainan, I have been able to travel extensively around Asia – taking in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to name but a few. Prior to this posting, I had never been to Asia so have relished the opportunity to explore this part of the world. I also enjoy fine wines, so any holiday that involves visiting a winery gets my vote. My wife and I went wine tasting in Chile – a fantastic experience. Finally, I am an avid golfer so always try to have a game when on vacation.

Where did you last go?
Last year my wife and I went to Australia, which was really cool. To me, Australia felt like America in the sixties. We spent our time on the east coast of Australia in Sydney – surely one of the most liveable cities in the world – Noosa (I have a cousin there) and Brisbane. It was a great gig. We were there for three weeks and needed that time: it’s easy to forget that Australia, like China, is a continent not a country.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
New Zealand is next on my hit list – I’d like to spend some time seeing the wineries. The wine industry is also growing in China, so I should try and see a few wineries in mainland China too.
I’d also like to visit India – I am yet to discover the subcontinent – and get up close with the orangutans in Borneo. All are realistic as Sanya is such a great gateway. It’s only an hour’s flight away from Hong Kong, from where you can fly to anywhere in the world.

Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite and why?
In the Rockies, we have The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch and, in winter, this is without a doubt my favourite retreat. The hotel is simply gorgeous with big wooden beams and a magnificent fireplace in the lobby. Nothing beats spending a day on the slopes and then returning to the Ritz to warm up in front of the fireplace.
I also adore Alain Ducasse’s Provence inn. The property has only 18 rooms and is very exclusive. Each room has its own flower theme – be it daisies or lavender. You can’t have breakfast before 8am because the staff are waiting for the bakery to open, so as to buy bread straight out of the baker’s oven. At 11am, you’ll see staff picking fresh herbs from the garden as they begin to prepare lunch…I’ve tried to recreate this at the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya and we now have a chef’s garden where guests can see and taste various tropical vegetable and fruit with the hotel’s chef.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t been?
That’s easy: Africa. I’ve only been to Morocco in North Africa, but would love to travel to deep Africa. The 2010 FIFA World Cup  helped catapult South Africa onto the international stage and it would be great to experience South Africa for myself (I hear they have good wines!), but I’d also like to see the Ivory Coast.

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The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya

On Hainan, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I’d advise guests at the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya, to take a trip to the wet market in downtown Sanya. This colourful, characterful market oozes ambience and offers a glimpse into the lives of locals. Another suggestion is to venture into Hainan’s Highlands. People tend to come to the island for the three S’s (that’s sand, sun and sea), but beyond the beach there’s the majestic mountain. It’s 1,800m high and affords beautiful views of China’s tropical gem. Guests can also visit traditional villages for an insight into how the Li and Miao minorities live, while active types will want to go white water rafting or hiking.

How do you plan your holiday?
Through a combination of guidebooks and the internet. Typically I choose a destination, try to find a good airfare online and then see if there is a Ritz-Carlton in the area! I’ll use a guide book for an overview to the destination and recommendations on what to see, where to eat and so on.

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Capitol Builing, Washington DC

How often do you go away?
Usually I go away on two- three short breaks or long week-ends each year, and perhaps two big trips. One of these is always to Washington DC: I have a house there and it’s also where my children live.

Who do you travel with?
When it comes to pleasure and leisure trips, I travel with my family. On business trips, I either travel alone or with colleagues. The GMs of Ritz-Carlton properties in the Asia Pacific region are scheduled to meet soon in Singapore and Hong Kong – where we are opening a hotel that will have 108 floors and be the highest tower in the world! The meeting will involve a gala dinner and reception, to which we will invite all our club customers. These are our more discerning customers who require added comfort and care. Club guests at the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya stay in an exclusive wing, accessible only by private keycard, and can enjoy a personalised concierge service and access to the club lounge serving all-day complimentary gourmet food and drink. The annual Asia-Pacific road show (last year it took place in Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan) is our way of engaging with our club guests, and thanking them for their loyalty.

Map of Hainan

Map of Hainan

Where do you see tourism in Hainan, in 10 years time?
I truly believe that tourism will have taken off in Hainan and especially in Sanya – I wouldn’t be here, if I didn’t. The Chinese government is investing a lot of time, effort and money to market and promote Hainan – China’s only tropical island. Right now, there are 6,000 international hotel rooms in Sanya for the tourist market but next year there will be 12,000 rooms and in two years time, there will be 21,000 rooms. It’s a booming destination: half of the world’s cranes are in China and 25 per cent of these are in Sanya. I see Sanya as the ‘Miami of Asia’. Aside from its enviable climate and sheer natural beauty, Sanya is a gateway to the rest of China (and indeed Asia). Beijing is a four hour flight away, while Shanghai is two and a half hours away and Guangzhou (the host city of the forthcoming 2010 Asian Games) and Hong Kong are a mere 60 minute plane journey away making the island a convenient destination in which to flop on white sandy beaches following an exhausting cultural tour around mainland China.

Thanks Michel! To find out where other industry experts holiday, don’t forget to keep clicking back to the CD-Traveller website.

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