Year-end Special: 2017 in three words

Our Year-end Special starts here with CEOs from all sectors of the industry describing their year in just three words. Plus, want a great book to read this year-end? Pick a leaf from their excellent suggestions. Enjoy This Read.

Darrell Wade
Darrell Wade

Darrell Wade, co-founder and executive chair, Intrepid Group
Pick three words to describe 2017
Best. Year. Ever. I’m cheating, but for me the three words just have to go together! We’ve had fantastic growth, entered a few new projects and I’ve personally stepped away from being CEO. Wins all round!

An unexpected joy this past year?
I was a little nervous about moving from CEO to chairman after so long as CEO. Would Intrepid maintain its momentum? Would the new CEO be up to the task? Would I still be able to have influence where I felt it was needed? Would I get bored and want my old job back? Would I suffer an existential midlife crisis? The answers to all these questions plus more brought real joy to me.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
I’m pretty efficient and don’t really waste much time. At least I don’t think I do! Some may say I read too much – are four newspapers a day too much? Some may say I spend too much time on email; I like to answer all emails I get – if people can be bothered writing to me, I should answer. Some may say I have too many holidays! Hey, isn’t that one of the reasons we work in the travel industry – because we love and believe in holidays?

The best books you read this year?
Hillbilly Elegy by J D Vance. This book goes a considerable way to understanding some of the dysfunctional aspects of America’s society, as well as the rise of Trump that came with it – without even mentioning his name. China in Ten Words by Yu Hua. This is a fantastic memoir of a person growing up in China’s Cultural Revolution. It’s so illuminating on modern China, even though the country has come such an incredibly long way from those difficult years. Maybe I enjoy reading about dysfunctional societies?


Lionel Yeo

Lionel Yeo, chief executive, Singapore Tourism Board
Pick three words to describe 2017
Passion Made Possible, of course! This is the tagline of the unified brand launched by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Economic Development Board earlier this year.

Passion Made Possible describes the Singapore story, what Singapore stands for, and the incredible journeys of many individuals and companies in Singapore who pursue their passions and overcome challenges.

An unexpected joy this past year?
This brand review journey was itself a passion project, and we were so excited to finally unveil it in August. In less than two months, our brand film had garnered over 36.5 million views globally.

We will continue to tell more stories under this brand positioning to inspire the rest of the world to find out more about the spirit of Singapore – a place shaped by its people, our passions and our determination to make things work.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
At the risk of sounding like a complaining millennial, it is the time taken for webpages to load after I click on them, or waiting for pop-ads that can’t be closed to go away, so I can continue reading an article.

Like many people these days, I consume some news content online via my social media feeds over mobile platforms. I applaud news sites offering a quick and seamless user experience (and they earn my allegiance as a result). But several others have not managed to get it right. With speed as the name of the digital game, at the rate some websites load – or not – next morning’s papers might be a better alternative.

This is an area digital media professionals, news platforms and advertisers must rethink in a landscape where consumers hanker after speed and usability.

The best books you read this year?
I would count Born To Run by Christopher McDougall as one of my most memorable leisure reads this year.

After a slow start, it dives into an absorbing account of how humans have evolved over time to be outstanding distance runners. If you do not run, this book may inspire you to start. If you are a runner, it may tempt you to try running barefoot to experience how our ancestors did it!

I’ve noticed that running is growing as a leisure trend in Asia, and even as a purpose of visit, in line with other passion drivers for travel. For example, the Singapore editions of the Sundown and Standard Chartered Singapore marathons attract healthy numbers of foreign participants. In this past year, I have met Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian industry stakeholders who have reported a growing interest in combining travel with health and fitness activities.

Another thoughtful title I made time to read this year was The Attention Merchants – The Epic Scramble To Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu. It’s an insightful and somewhat startling overview of the history of advertising and marketing. It shows that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. You can’t help feeling smarter, and perhaps troubled, after reading this book, whether as consumer or marketer.


Thatcher Brown

Thatcher Brown, president & CEO, Dream Cruises
Pick three words to describe 2017
Anything is possible!

An unexpected joy this past year?
The launch of a new brand and a new ship is always a very special occasion. There is a great satisfaction in developing a new brand with a talented and motivated team, overcoming numerous challenges along the way and successfully launching it in a new market in less than 16 months’ time. To know that Genting Dream has been a driving and innovative force in growing the cruise industry in Asia and, more specifically China, is gratifying.

Since Genting Dream’s arrival in the Pearl River Delta a year ago, she has brought over 200,000 passenger trips to the region. Jobs have been created, the next generation of cruise industry talent hired, and tourism receipts in hotel, airlines and destination management industries have incrementally grown. It is a good story.

On a more personal note, as a leader, I always get a lot of joy out of helping talented people believe in themselves, and leaving each individual on my team in a better place than when I found them.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
I enjoy studying languages. So, this past year I enrolled in Mandarin classes. Unfortunately, I have not been a diligent student. I rarely do my homework and prepare for my lessons. When I go to class, I always feel like I am starting from the same place over and over again! I feel like I am wasting my time. My hope is that there is some form of sub-conscious learning going on, and one day, I will reap the benefits!

The best books you read this year?
I enjoy reading and have read several books over the past year, from biographies to philosophy to collections of essays. I am a curious person by nature which leads me to spontaneous exploration when it comes to literature. Here are four books that I enjoyed reading over the past year for different reasons:

A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues by Andre Comte-Sponville – this was a great read as it addresses the uses of philosophy in everyday life. There is a great chapter on “temperance”.

Spanning Silos – The New CMO Imperative by David Aaker – I have had the privilege of meeting David Aaker a couple of times. His writing on branding and organisational effectiveness has always resonated. I finally got to reading this informative book last year.
China’s Future, A Biography of Xi Jinping by Wu Ming – when I moved to Hong Kong two years ago to build a brand and launch a new ship in a new market in China, I told myself that I would commit to learning about history and culture of China. This book was a logical choice in understanding the personal and political story of the president of the People’s Republic of China.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace – I love David Foster Wallace’s writing style and humour – I can relate to his human stories and enjoy the shock-value of his story-telling.


Craig Smith

Craig Smith, president & managing director, Asia-Pacific, Marriott International
Pick three words to describe 2017

Growth, Breakthrough and Digitalisation.

It has been a year since the Marriott-Starwood merger, and this deal has allowed our family to grow in all aspects – seen in our growth of guests, associates, owners, communities and economies. This becomes a key part of our business and it is what has driven us to achieve nearly 180,000 open rooms and a pipeline of over 19,000 more.

We now operate 600 properties across 23 brands in 24 countries in Asia-Pacific. By expanding our core brands and accelerating the growth of all ranges of services, we are able to reach out to a larger and more diverse customer pool, while delivering unprecedented choice for guests by offering a variety of brands across different locations.

We will open nearly 80 new hotels and debut two new brands in the region by the end of 2017. Our combined loyalty programme has over 100 million members who can now enjoy access to over 6,000 properties across more than 122 countries around the world, as well as the world’s largest collection of luxury properties. Our associates will have more opportunities to grow and develop as part of the Marriott family – we will employ 140,000 people across Asia-Pacific by the end of this year, so there are a lot of opportunities to learn from each other, such as cross-training and working under different brands.

We see and are responding to the trend of digitalisation. This is already impacting the hotel industry and we are working hard to stay one step ahead. We’ve made great strides with technology that advances our guests’ experiences, be it online, offline, on-property and off-property. Our recent joint venture with Alibaba provides the Chinese market with customised content, programmes and promotions. It will elevate and redefine the travel experience for Chinese consumers to be more seamless and personalised. We are evolving and continuing to inspire travel in a tech-savvy approach – to develop an even deeper and more loyal relationship with our customers.

An unexpected joy this past year?
The biggest joy was definitely having the Starwood associates join our family. Our Marriott family continues to grow, and I am very happy to see that our associates continue to feel happy and cared for in the workplace. We’ve always been a people company, and I think it is important that everyone feels welcome as a real family at Marriott.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
Long meetings. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but I always like short and concise meetings – everyone is more focused and becomes more engaged in the discussion, making the entire process more efficient and effective.

Waiting in a long line when I’m on business or leisure trips is one of the biggest pain points for all travellers. When we speak often about the nearly two billion international trips we’re expecting by 2030, I really hope to see the collective effort from the industry to modernise the antiquated system in use today with regards to visas, long queues and reliance on paper documents, etc.

Marriott International is working closely with key partners like Accenture to make the vision of seamless international travel a reality. We’re working to build a tangible prototype showing all stakeholders the art of the possible in seamless and secure travel. However, what Marriott can’t do is facilitate the visa and border experience for our customers; we can only encourage governments to adopt new policies that enable greater information and data-sharing across national borders. We understand that building these digital bridges will better integrate security agencies and better protect borders and citizens.

That’s not too far down the road and I am confident that travel will become smarter and eventually, it will bring positive impacts to global travellers.

The best books you read this year?
For 2017, it was a year of “re-reads”. I do this often – pull out classics and re-read them to get a better understanding.

The two notable books are Re-imagine by Tom Peters and The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. The new read for me this year is Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike by Phil Knight.


Albert Pozo

Albert Pozo, president, Amadeus Asia Pacific
Pick three words to describe 2017
Digitalisation, Personalisation and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) economy.
For me, these had the biggest influence on travel over the year. If you ask me what I think I’ll answer this time next year, I think we will still be talking about these, along with messaging apps, smart cities and virtual reality.

An unexpected joy this past year?
Asia-Pacific continuing to lead global growth in travel. Although this was not wholly unexpected, it gives me pride, positivity and reassurance in the decisions we’ve made and the direction we are going as a company.

A topic which was unexpected and unwelcome was extremism, and I was relieved when people in the EU rejected it.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
Queues at airports. All I can think about when I’m shifting my feet slowly across these endless security and customs checks, is the 100 other things I could be doing, not least getting home to my family. We need to cut red tape and improve efficiencies on border control and security. This will alleviate the burden on regional and global travel/travellers.

The best books you read this year?
On business side: The fourth industrial revolution by K. Schwab. This gives great insights into the degree of transformation we are experiencing (and will continue to) and how it is an opportunity, for those who are ready to embrace change.
On private side, Todo esto te dare, by Dolores Redondo. Why I loved it? It takes you on a fascinating journey of how things are not always as they appear to be at first glance. It also looks at how the splendour of life reflects best through those we love and care about.


Jennifer Cronin

Jennifer Cronin, president, Wharf Hotels Management
Pick three words to describe 2017
Life is short or Just do it.

An unexpected joy this past year?
Safari with a great group of friends, enjoying all the Big Five in the wild – magic!

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
Emails.

The best books you read this year?
Shackleton’s Way, Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, by M Morrell & S Capparell (a pre-read for our 2017 General Managers Conference and now a must-read for our group).

The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester, about the obsession of two men who created the Oxford Dictionary in the last half of the 18th Century.


Suphajee Suthumpun

Suphajee Suthumpun, group CEO, Dusit International
Pick three words to describe 2017
From a business sense: Expansion, Diversification and Partnerships. These three words summarise Dusit’s approach towards the objective of having sustainable and profitable growth, which will see our company more than double its tally of hotels worldwide within the next five years.

Taking a wider perspective, my three words to describe 2017 would be Startups, Uberisation (as in modifying a market, sharing economy model), and Millennials – and I don’t just mean youngsters, but people with a millennial mindset who are shaping, and travelling around, the world.

An unexpected joy this past year?
The unexpected joy was the immediate positive response to the launch of Dusit’s new Vision, Mission and Values (VMVs).

Vision: Proud of our Thai heritage, uniquely delivering gracious hospitality to the world.
Mission: We empower our people to exceed expectations, ALWAYS.
Values: Care. Commit. Can do!

Corporate HR invited Dusit Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to create short videos showcasing the new VMVs and the submissions were excellent. For example, the video created by the team at Dusit Abu Dhabi was particularly impressive, showcasing Dusit employees of many nationalities explaining their own definitions of Care, Commit, Can do!
The video really hit home how we are one global family uniquely delivering gracious hospitality to the world. And it was wonderful to see.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
If you mean time-waster in terms of something I enjoyed doing, then that would definitely be running. I love getting out early in the morning or late in the evening for a run. Not only does it keep me fit and healthy, but it really helps to clear my mind. In fact, some of my best ideas come when I’m mid-way through a run – which is probably why I spend so much time doing it.

If you mean time-waster in terms of something I don’t like doing, then that’s definitely sitting out the heavy traffic (Editor’s Note: she’s based in Bangkok). Fortunately, at the very corner of my office at Dusit Thani Bangkok, we have the Sala Daeng BTS and Silom MRT stations right outside, so there’s always a quick and easy way to travel if I need it.

The best books you read this year?
Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders: The Three Essential Principles You Need to Become An Extraordinary Leader by Rajeev Peshawaria. This book is rich with case studies and examples of successful leadership, and I’ve actually read it a few times now. He’ll probably send me a bill for using so much of his advice!


Gavin Tollman

Gavin Tollman, CEO, Trafalgar
Pick three words to describe 2017
Successful, Inspirational and Enriching.
We have had one of our most buoyant years ever. We are thrilled to be enjoying such loyalty and support and appreciate every aspect of such a privilege, especially as we acknowledge our 70th birthday as the flagship brand of our family business.

Despite the volatile periods and some negative forces this year, I am hugely inspired by the resilience of people – from those impacted by world events to our valued guests to my amazing team. The abundant positive energy all around inspires and motivates me enormously.

I’m so passionate about this industry and feel grateful for what my family and I do every day. I have found 2017 to be particularly enriching: I feel strongly about meaningful travels and for me, taking the time to experience our JoinTrafalgar programme this year was an undoubted highlight.

An unexpected joy this past year?
In all honesty, all of the above. We have seen some precarious times in the world and in our industry and despite such challenging circumstances on occasion, it’s been wonderful to see the humanity of some and also humility of others.

A particular joy was revisiting Paris last April and feeling the joie de vivre of a truly special city. Despite the adversity that France has experienced in recent times, the resilience of the Parisians shines throughout the City of Lights. A simple stroll along the Seine, or indeed anywhere else in the city, is a joyful reminder of the abundant positive energy and inner beauty of this city and its people. It truly touches my heart every time.

The best books you read this year?
I’ve actually revisited a couple of books from someone whom I find immensely inspiring, Seth Godin. Purple Cow is one of my all-time favourites and a great reminder about how we should all be thinking differently – nobody should be vanilla, we need to stand-out and be remarkable.

Tribes also was a timely reminder of how we all crave connectivity and we thrive when pulling together for the same common goal or purpose. My team and I have found this a powerful mantra to abide by.

I’m looking forward to reading Seth’s latest book, What to do when it’s your turn, on my next longhaul flight. It’s a subject I feel strongly about, we should all step up to the mark and make a difference.


Martin Rinck

Martin Rinck, president Asia-Pacific, Hilton Worldwide
Pick three words to describe 2017
Purpose, Mindful Leadership, Passion.

An unexpected joy this past year?
Hilton named as the top-ranking hospitality company in Great Place to Work’s Best Multinational Workplaces award for 2017. Our amazing team members and a strong value-based company culture are at the very core of everything we do, so to gain this recognition was a real highlight.

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this past year?
In the spirit of Thrive@Hilton, and in trying to find a perfect work-life integration, I would say attempting to multi-task was the biggest time-waster!

Multiple studies on this topic have shown (much to my relief!) that we are more productive when we focus our minds on one single task at a time and avoid distractions. With multi-tasking, we are just tiring the brain and are lowering our cognitive ability. Always remember: Being busy doesn’t always translate into being productive.

The best books you read this year?
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan.


Ellen Bettridge

Ellen Bettridge, global CEO, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Pick three words to describe 2017
Motivating, Energising, Fun.
Motivating: Our crew never stops working and always delivers the best service with our tiny noticeable touches.

Energising: From our repeat customers and Uniworld staff at both our corporate offices and on our ships who are always so enthusiastic.

Fun: The experiences and the joy of launching our newest supership Joie de Vivre and our new millennial brand U by Uniworld.

An unexpected joy this past year?
It was the amazing response to the launch of our Joie de Vivre which sails along the Seine River from Paris, and really how we have raised the bar in the river cruising industry.

The best books you read this year?
Lean Sales by Tapio Nissila has been useful for me to understand how we segment our travel agents to best service them.

Whack on the side of the head by Roger van Oech on how to get creative and think differently.

The Last Tudor Princess by Alison Wier. I am a huge fan of historical fiction.

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