Daniel Chao’s first visit to the country might have been just a day-long stop in Mumbai few years back, but the American is here in Chennai for the long haul since this January. “With India, it is really difficult to arrive with an open mind. You cannot help but have images of Bollywood or the Taj Mahal,” says the general manager of Novotel-Ibis hotels Chennai OMR and general manager delegate of AccorHotels, who admits that he feels at home in the city. Talking about the floods, he admits that he was impressed by the city’s quick rehabilitation. “One of the first events that I attended when I landed here was the distribution of relief material to our team members who were affected. The little things you can do — and everybody does that — makes all the difference,” he says, referring to gestures by employees across the country who pitched in.
Back to the start
Chao began working with Accor Hotels in France in 1999, and shares that his move to France from the United States was his most difficult expat experience — right from where they have positioned their light switches to the culture of the place. Finding the industry well established here, Chao says, “I find that Chennai has a mature hospitality industry with a strong body of trade professionals.”
The showers notwithstanding, Chao says, “I will take the Chennai summer any day to the Chinese winter,” revealing that his last stop was Beijing where the winter was unbearably cold. Residing down the ECR, the globetrotter who has lived in places like Saudi Arabia, Malta, French Guiana and Tunisia, does admit that he misses the Peking duck in China, but adds, “One of Anissa’s (my wife) reasons to pick the house was Tryst Café! We love their French baguette and chocolate almond croissants.”
A diving enthusiast, Chao, who celebrated his 50th birthday recently, plans to visit Pondicherry soon to enjoy the sport there. While Anissa, who hails from Tunisia, loves the various Indian attire and finds the choices overwhelming, Chao has already got himself a formal Indian outfit made that is just waiting for an important occasion to be flaunted at.
— Sabrina Rajan