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Hotelier finds pleasure in helping people by serving them

  Thomas Mueller did not think that one day he will return to the hotel business he had enjoyed so much when he was back in Australia in 2000.

After 18 years working in hotels, he decided to do something else. He started a company to provide doctors to homes. "It's quite different from hotel management but it's still people business," Mueller thought.

It took him three months to have everything ready to go, except that he could not find any doctors willing to do a house visit. "This is Sydney, everyday security is okay, but walking down the street is another story. They were afraid of being robbed."

After struggling for three-quarters of the year, he gave up. "This is the most disappointing thing in my life. I thought I could help people."

He went back to the hotel business where he was able to translate his willingness to help people by serving them.

"I love it (the hotel business), it's a great opportunity to meet new people, and it's a great way to travel, I have never been to a place that I did not want be," Mueller said.

Back in Shanghai as General Manager of Four Points by Sheraton and Sheraton Shanghai Hotel and Residences, Mueller found out that things were not the same as 20 years ago.

"When I was in Hua Ting Sheraton Hotel in 1987, we were the first international hotel in Shanghai," he said.

Most competitors being local at that time, the Sheraton possessed an advantage. He said the thing that made him most proud was educating his staff about international hotel management, watching them absorb the knowledge like sponge and in the process they changed their former perception about the hotel business.

"You have influence on people and see they change and achieve success, it just feels great," he enthused.

Today what he faces is a much more difficult situation than 20 years ago. Competition from other international hotels is more severe while the local people's attitude towards hotel business has not changed a lot.

"Lots of parents don't want their children to work in hotel business, it's difficult to find university graduates, and for people who are already in the business, if they find some other opportunity they will leave," he said, while in Europe, hotel management is viewed as a real professional job.

Because of cultural differences, Chinese people as well as most Asian people may not be as flexible as the Europeans in terms of relocation. For example, a traditional Asian person needs to take care of his parents, so you can't leave them and it becomes more difficult when you get married and have children.

"We are desperate for people, but we cannot transfer them to assignments in other cities other than where they live," he said in a disappointed tone.

Being an inquisitive person, he could not wait to get out after university and go as far away from home as he possibly could. And now, every weekend, he tries to find some place in the city or in nearby regions that he has not been to before.

Having worked in China for quite a long time and in many cities, it might be hard for Mueller to pick his favorite.

"Every city has something different, and I felt regret sometimes that I had to leave after two, three or four years. But then I find a new place and find new things to do there (in a new city), so it's always existing," Mueller said.

But Mueller claims that he prefers Shanghai not just because he works here but also for the numerous pubs and nightlife in the city.

He can name the bars and pubs easily such as Cotton's but failed when he tried to recall the name of his favorite Chinese restaurant.

"It's always a problem, I cannot speak Chinese, not even the name of my favorite restaurant," he smiled, a bit embarrassed.

But he said his "life is perfect now. I have everything I need, I enjoy my work, I like the city and I enjoy the people I meet and I work with, what else can I expect?"

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