Room Boom

Courtesy Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts

Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo

With credit tight and customers scarce, chief executives from San Francisco to Shanghai are hunkering down, cutting costs and praying that they can survive the punishing global recession. But not Madhu Rao, the new CEO of Hong Kong – based luxury-hotel operator Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Rao, 57, is forging ahead with an aggressive plan to expand Shangri-La's 60-strong network of hotels, even as his business slumps. "We have one single vision," Rao says confidently, "to lift this [company] to another level."

The level Rao seeks is global. Shangri-La has confined itself...

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