Staff Spotlight: Getting to Know Yang Kaihan 杨凯涵
This is a part of our continuing series where we introduce you to the people who are responsible for helping the Linden Centre run! Check back regularly to learn more about the amazing people who make LC so special.
So…who is Yang Kai Han? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Yunnan to a Vietnamese-Chinese family. I spent my youth moving around in the province, following my dad, an architect who had projects in various parts of Yunnan. Because of this I had a wonderful opportunity to learn a lot about Yunnan culture from a very young age – long before the region became a popular mass tourism destination. I went to Singapore for the final year of my high school and then I went to Ireland to pursue a degree in hospitality management. From there I continued my journey in the UK as a scholar in sustainable tourism development. I spent over 10 years abroad before I came back to Shanghai to work as a researcher in branding and marketing. Finally the opportunity at the Linden Centre opened up and I quickly decided to join in the team.
Why the hospitality industry?
I see hospitality as a great channel to deliver cultural understanding, because it is the centerpiece of people’s travel experience. When I moved to Singapore when I was 17, I got a Christmas job wrapping gifts for one of the five star hotels there, and I guess that was my first taste of the industry. I did not choose hospitality management as a major out of passion or because it was my dream, unlike many of my peers. I chose it because it was the only program that offered me scholarships and job opportunities. But I quickly realized that I was pretty good at what I learned. Hospitality is a people business–it is all about making people happy. I have to admit that I enjoy working in hospitality over any other industries.
Though I feel this way now, I did not when I first graduated from college. After studying and working at the front line of hospitality service, I just wanted to stand back a little bit so that I could see the industry from a more intellectual perspective. So I spent a good few years doing postgraduate studies, which are all about regional tourism development from Tibet and Yunnan. Yet somehow, the Linden Centre brought me back to the industry, and I’m quite happy about my return.
What are you doing here at the Linden Centre?
I’m running operations here at the Linden Centre. Basically, I’m trying to put the Linden Centre into a box. The way the Centre has worked over the past 10 years was based on heavy manpower. But I’m trying to systemize this approach so it fits in the brand’s vision about future growth. To do this, I’m establishing SOPs, staff reward schemes and rules – putting all these into a box. My goal is that, wherever future LCs open, you can just take the box and duplicate it and it will work. But I’m doing this carefully, because I don’t want to lose its great flavor as a unique being in the vast world of hotels.
What makes the Linden Centre unique?
When Brian and Jeanee established the Centre, they created a wonderful chassis to represent a lot of local culture, which is increasingly fragile with the speed of China’s modernization process. I don’t think it is fair to call the Linden Centre a hotel. I think it is unique from three aspects.
First, there is the physical space, we are running a boutique hotel in a national relic of China, and we have this magnificent building that was constructed at the peak of the Bai ethnic minority’s architectural wisdom. This kind of beauty is immortal, and it will never go out of fashion. In my eyes, the past century has been a painful moment in the long history of China: we have lost more than we can ever recover. So this building is a representation of extreme scarcity in a cultural sense.
Second, there is the imagination associated with the building. I have a theory about how tourists are all homesick most for the places they have never known. This kind of nostalgia is so powerful that it pulls travelers to places around the world. LC fulfills the imagination of an old China. It is almost like a reminder for who China once was, and what kind of aesthetics that China was capable of producing, and what it was like to be living in China from 70 years ago.
Third, it is the experience at the LC. Visitors come and stay, they usually come with the expectations of comfortable bedrooms, nice food and professional service. Those are what anyone would expect from any decent hotel. But it does not take long for them to realize that the LC is special. Among our staff, we have local Bai Zu who can speak English, we have students from the States, and we also have various roots from South East Asia, Middle East, Americas and Europe. In a way, this is a strangely mixed group of people, but we all share something in common, that is the love for significant cultural places and appreciation for this very unique part of China. For anybody, this is an experience that is not easily found, and for sure not easily forgotten.
What are you looking forward to in the new year?
This year is the 10th year anniversary for LC, and my first year here. Lots of exciting things are happening. In January, we are now opening Yangzhuoran – our education centre which was exclusive to students from International schools – to the public. We are designing a whole new set of activities for families, small groups of young travelers and international wonderers for a reasonable price. Lots of newcomers will have a chance to stay with us, enjoy our cultural offerings and celebrate this new year with us, all at a much cheaper cost. In February, we are opening our second boutique hotel – The Linden Commons – in Xizhou. Opening this new site will add a whole new experience of staying with us. Of course, we will have exclusive programs tailored to the new site, including a wonderful cooking school, fusion restaurants, and local handicrafts experiences. In March, we will be opening a experiential gallery-shop at LC, which will present a series of products that we have been working very hard to create. We are talking about books that were written by our guests while they were staying with us, art pieces which were created by our Artists in Residence, and organic food and beverage products from our kitchen. In addition to all of that, we will host continuous exhibitions from Brian’s collections or famous artists. In the middle of 2018, we are looking forward to seeing a brand new boutique restaurant in another historical building in Xizhou. This restaurant will show about local cuisine in a way that is never imagined before. Finally, in the later half of 2018, we will introduce our first new hotel outside of Xizhou, and that will bring what we can offer our guests to a whole new level.
So, basically, we have a busy year planned and we are all very excited.