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City of undiscovered treasures
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Sofitel Westlake Hangzhou's General Manager Guido Milner has a secret he is happy to reveal -- he is loving the city more and more. The Italian native was posted to the property in early 2007 and continues to extol its virtues.

"There are secrets around town," said the 39-year-old.

"There are plenty of superb places to be discovered that people don't know about. I send my wife to scout and she shows me some fantastic places over the weekend -- treasures."

According to the chess enthusiast, this is but one of the many reasons to visit the Zhejiang Province capital.

Besides the slower pace of life and the friendliness of the locals, the city also endures less pollution than its bustling counterparts while offering refuge to those inconvenienced by the maddening crowds attracted by this summer's Olympic Games.

"This year can be a haven for Hangzhou and Zhejiang Province as a whole."

He remained cautious when forecasting revenue, however. "I think we could benefit, but frankly, by how much is hard to predict."

This has already proven a testing year for Milner and his property. The winter freeze cut 45 percent of revenue for that period (although he continued to look on the bright side and commented that the scenery looked even more beautiful than usual), while the shortened Labor Day was a further disappointment.

The Qingming Festival holiday, on the other hand, was a "blessing for the month of April." Milner stated it made the period an even greater high season month than last year, and with the holiday falling on Friday, timing was perfect.

Best of all, he added, there was no disruption effect before or after. "Usually with the Chinese holidays, business dips one week before the break and takes three or four days to recover after. This time there was a greater blending in."

Aubrey Buckingham

(Shanghai Daily May 18, 2008)

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