View all newsletters
Latest in Luxury - Sign up to our newsletter
  1. Leaders in Luxury
May 12, 2011updated Feb 26, 2013

Ricco DeBlank

By Chris Boyle

Ricco DeBlank

CEO – Hotel Division
Sun Hung Kai Properties

Chance meetings in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo led Ricco DeBlank to his current post as CEO – Hotel Division of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP). For the star general manager of the U.S.-based Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, his new assignment moved him south to Hong Kong but not too far from his alma mater. As one of Asia’s largest property developers, the publicly traded SHKP not only owns the Four Seasons Hong Kong but also the just-opened Ritz-Carlton flagship in Hong Kong, the highest hotel in the world. Leading up to the high-profile opening DeBlank caught up with Elite Traveler editor-in-chief Douglas Gollan across Victoria Harbour in the Four Seasons to talk about his transition from GM to CEO – Hotel Division, the upcoming flagship and more.

ET: Tell us a bit about your background.
Ricco DeBlank: I’m Dutch, and I have always been interested in hospitality since I was five or six and served drinks to my parents’ guests. They were always very appreciative, and I liked that. I went to Gordonstoun in Scotland, a very famous boarding school. The motto there is “plus est en vous,” which translates “there is more in you than you think.” This has really been important to me. After completing hotel school, I worked for Disney, then Ritz-Carlton.

ET: And how did you come to your current position?
Ricco DeBlank: The Chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties was a customer at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo. I would see him when he came to the hotel, but we had never really discussed anything, until one day he asked me to come work for him in this position.

ET: And what does Sun Hung Kai entail?
Ricco DeBlank: The group is one of Hong Kong’s largest landowners, with over 42.3 million square feet as of December 2010, including 14.4 million square feet under development, 27.9 million square feet of completed investment properties and over 26 million square feet of agricultural land in the New Territories, most of which is in the process of land use conversion, principally for residential development. The group’s core business is the development of property for sale and investment. It also has complementary operations in the property-related fields, including, naturally, hotels, financial services, insurance and property management.

ET: What hotels are in the group?
Ricco DeBlank: In addition to The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, we have the W Hong Kong at Kowloon Station and of course right here, the Four Seasons Hotel and Four Seasons Place. We also have The Royal Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui, Royal Park Hotel in Sha Tin, Royal Plaza Hotel in Mong Kok and Royal View Hotel in Ting Kau. We are also active on the mainland. The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong opened in June 2010, and we are planning/are in the process of developing premium hotels in key cities including Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Chengdu.

ET: What’s the biggest change from being a hotel general manager to CEO of a group that owns hotels?
Ricco DeBlank: It’s pretty straightforward. It’s going from ADR (average daily rate) to revenue per square meter. When I was a general manager, I was always looking to see how I could make the hotel more profitable for my owner, so that is obviously the same. When I look at a hotel, I am always looking to see if there are some additional revenue opportunities and space that is unused, under-utilized or could be used in a better way.

ET: Between the W (Starwood), your Ritz-Carltons and the Four Seasons, you are aligned with three of the world’s top luxury operators.
Ricco DeBlank: It gives us the opportunity to see what the best in the industry do and how they do things differently.

Content from our partners
Riva Del Sole Resort & Spa: An Unforgettable Experience
Casting the 'Sales' with Meros Yachtsharing
André Aparício Sets the Standard at Waldorf Astoria Cancun

ET: Are there any secrets to good service?
Ricco DeBlank: I make every area in my hotels measurable. I work on improvement with my team, and I encourage my employees to set goals to ensure that we are better tomorrow than we were yesterday. You have to listen to customers at all levels. I also want employees to know they can grow and that we want them to be proud of where they work.

ET: What are some of your more memorable moments?
Ricco DeBlank: My first general manager position was in Sharm el-Sheikh (with Ritz-Carlton), and I was there when the second Gulf War broke out. Occupancy dropped overnight to 20 percent, and if something didn’t happen I was going to have to let go of staff. Instead of giving up, I got my director of sales and we went to Kuwait. We booked the royal family for more than half a year, they paid cash, and our occupancy went up to 65 percent. The entire staff nominated me as GM of the Year, which really fortified the fact that if you take care of your team, they will take care of you.

ET: Any other great experiences?
Ricco DeBlank: There were a few. But I would also have to say opening The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo. I was there from the start, so I was involved in all aspects of creating the hotel. In Japan, the top brands are put on a pedestal so as general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, I was like a rock star. It really made me realize how important it is to cultivate and care for brands.

Topics in this article : ,
Select and enter your email address Be the first to know about the latest in luxury lifestyle news and travel.
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thank you for subscribing to Elite Traveler.

Websites in our network