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Songtsam Retreat at Shangri-La, a member of the MGallery Collection, is a 70-room traditional Tibetan hotel at the foot of the mountains. Its windows open onto Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the largest of its kind in Yunnan Province.
In 2009, Patrick Druet took just five minutes to decide to live there, taking a job as general manager of the hotel.
Patrick, from France, has not only worked in the cities of his home country, but also in Canada, Ireland, Britain, and China. “For me, joining a newly-established hotel presented a big challenge,” Patrick beams. “But I couldn’t leave the snow-capped mountains and yaks. Many years ago, I worked at a ski resort in France, and since then, it has been my dream to return to the mountains. My dream has finally come true right here.”
Patrick’s career in China began in Xiamen, Fujian Province in 2001. Since then, he has traveled across the country, working. He became particularly passionate about Shangri-La for all the right reasons: the environment, the mountain views, the climate, and most of all, the smiling faces around him.
Nevertheless, the job was far from a walk in the park. Training the local staff was a monumental task in itself, because most had not received higher education and had grown up comparatively isolated from the rest of the world. Several former foreign general managers in his position gave up and left. Patrick persisted. In his eyes, everyone there is real and deeply religious, and works hard for more than just money. “Really, the smiles from the bottom of their hearts are the most-cherished memories for guests,” Patrick continues.
“Our hotel is not star-rated. We have our own distinct local features, highlighted by the culture and its activities, architecture and the employees themselves.”
Patrick’s astute understanding of Shangri-La is perhaps best exemplified by his style of dressing¡ªTibetan, and he often hikes along the mountain paths. “I hike in the mountains a lot in my spare time,” he explains. “Sometimes, I even follow the locals and spin a prayer wheel along with them. It’s a place of tranquility and peace that gives everyone a sense of belonging.”
Patrick will become a manager of a soon-to-open Songtsam hotel in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. “I want to maximize the local cultural flavor in these hotels, which is the best way to draw people from around the world.”
Patrick hails from southern France. As for the future for this wandering nomad, it is looking up: “Lhasa is higher than Shangri-La. I may have to leave one day, but my heart will stay here in Shangri-La forever.”