Skål! to young Asian members

Young association members are the key to making inroads into Asia’s travel trade, and Skål International’s new CEO, Daniela Otero, talks about big plans to revolutionise the association.

Otero: Asia priority in next few years

What brings Skål International to Asia?
The future is here, culturally and economically. Our members around the world are very interested in this market – both in bringing people here and receiving people from here – and Skål International is the perfect tool to connect them.

This is a big window of opportunity for small- and medium-sized companies, and people here are more prepared to do business with occidental people and organisations, in terms of having more and better tools for business and communication.

Asia also has a very diverse history, and since travellers are always looking out for new discoveries, Asia has become one of the most important destinations for occidental travellers in the last 10 years.

Over the next few years, Asia is going to be our priority. We’re going to support our members here and give them more benefits.

Otero: Asia priority for next few years

What challenges are you facing in this new territory?
Asia is a big market and it’s very different. My main challenge now is figuring out how to integrate companies in Asia with those in the rest of the world. We need to understand the global point of view and the new ways of doing business around the world.

For example, digital transformation for associations is no longer a “maybe” – it’s a must. We need to redesign our processes. This point is a priority for us, and we are now working on this.

What considerations will you make when redesigning your process?
One of our member benefits is giving opportunities to young professionals. Part of my plan is working on this target. For example, finding mentors to support youths in their career. It’s a win-win situation: companies receive fresh ideas and mentalities, and millennials receive the training opportunity.

What’s interesting I’ve learned is that in Singapore, it’s difficult for young people to engage in dialogues with top-management members, because the culture is different. So this is one point we’d like to focus on changing.

What do you see young talent contributing to the industry?
They are the future. We have the experience, but I learn new things every day from the young people in my team. They know the industry’s history and they have a vision of the future. They understand this modern world.

With this vision, what changes do you hope to see in the industry?
I think that the industry will be able to move forward with more and clearer targets. Now we have a mix of travellers: traditional ones who like the old way of travelling; the middle-aged travellers who understand and enjoy new technology, but are still more comfortable with the past; and the millennials.

The big companies must think about these different target markets when providing their services. This is especially crucial for millennials, who make up a very big market, are very clear about what they want and always make their purchases online.

Especially for hotels, technology is not a plus now; it’s a must. Just 10 years ago, hotel WiFi was a benefit. Now, if you don’t have WiFi in your hotel, you don’t have clients. Customers assume that WiFi is included with their stay.

I think there also needs to be more transparency, honesty and consistency in the hotel ratings system. (The standards of) a five-star hotel in Singapore are not the same as a five-star hotel in another part of Asia. I hope this will be standardised in the industry in the next few years.

Do you think there needs to be more awareness about such service standards?
Maybe not in cities like Singapore, but more so in the rest of Asia, parts of Europe and South America. The difference in standards is very huge, and companies don’t always have the same mentalities.

In this age of social media and technological connectivity, what role does Skål International play, and how do you make sure you stay relevant?
We give the guarantee to our members that the company or operator they are working with is reliable and trustworthy – and in these times, it’s very important to have a guarantee.

We will continue to facilitate communications for our members around the world, and help them make better business connections. Digital transformation is a must and will be a priority for us in the next year.

Member benefits will also be extended around the world. Lastly, we’ll try to open a really big door for youths around the world who would like to work in this industry.

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