Who TTG Asia reporters want to have a good chat with, Part 1

Meet Team TTG Editorial, the hands and (often crazy) minds that feel compelled to bring you the latest industry scoops and thought-provoking analyses. Ever wonder what they’re so frantically scratching into their notebooks? Well, here’s a peek into Reporters Notebook 2017– you might just find yourself in there

Raini Hamdi, senior editor

Hardest assignment in 2017
The hardest assignment is creating one, conceptualising, say, this or the upcoming January/February issue from a blank piece of paper, under time and space constraints, then assigning the reports out. This year, we’ve had more than our usual share of assignments; I’m proudest the most of our 50th anniversary of ASEAN special edition in January. Increasingly, it’s harder to find original ideas and angles in our fast-changing industry. But we must keep up – find the time to read up, meet CEOs, visit companies, attend conferences, to grasp changes fully.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
I’d like to have a good lunch/chat with Adrian Zecha. I’d talk about winning and losing, why it’s hard to give up (after Aman, he’s still at it with Azerai Hotels and Maha Yacht Club), the chutzpah of hotel companies today, their brilliance, about personalised service in a world of chatbots and spoilt customers, the future of the industry – make that a long, long lunch please!

 

Karen Yue, group editor

Hardest assignment in 2017
I cannot recall any. The bulk of my time goes to shaping editorial direction for TTGmice, TTGassociations and the TTG Show Dailies, and the rest of it attending critical business and association events-related conferences to get content for my publications – and I love doing them all and learning from industry veterans. Perhaps work isn’t hard when it is enjoyable!

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
I’ve just heard that Maritz Global Events, a company with 120 years of history, has a Behavioral Sciences and Innovation division that takes a scientific approach to understanding event delegates, using neuroscience and human behaviour research. This enables Maritz to craft effective events for its clients. I would love to sit with the lead researchers and hear about the division’s findings.

 

Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, editor, TTG Asia

Hardest assignment in 2017
Visiting the Airbus base in Toulouse with Thai Airways  to take delivery of its third A350-900 aircraft when I was four-plus months pregnant. Although I didn’t suffer from morning sickness, flying longhaul and jumping straight into work upon arrival despite the time difference was still quite tiring.

However, what I got to experience, learn and see during this trip more than made up for my lethargy. I was awestruck by the scale of Airbus’ assembly line for its various aircraft models – including the A380 and the upcoming A350-1000 – and how a strong global tourism sector has workers beavering away round the clock to meet the demand for commercial airplanes. It didn’t hurt that both Airbus and Thai Airways were extremely good hosts – there was plenty of wine, scrumptious food and business class seats. This trip turned me into an aviation buff wannabe.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
I’d love to sit down for a chat with Dara Khosrowshahi, the former chief of Expedia and now CEO of Uber. He has turned Expedia into one of the most powerful OTAs during his 12-year tenure, but the talented leader chose to move out of his comfort zone by accepting the job offer to lead Uber, one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable startups that has had its fair share of growing pains worldwide and internal problems. And in regions like South-east Asia, Uber is also facing stiff competition from rivals like Grab, so it would be interesting to hear from this travel industry veteran turned tech mogul’s take on ride-hailing. Will this experienced leader be able to head Uber and change its fortunes?

 

S Puvaneswary, editor, Malaysia

Hardest assignment in 2017
It was a report on Chiang Mai for TTG Asia, which was assigned to me last minute – on the day I was travelling to Macau for PATA Travel Mart (PTM) in September (yes, those crazy editors!). With just one exhibitor from Chiang Mai at PTM, it was a task, but I got around the problem by securing more Chiang Mai exhibitors at IT&CM Asia in Bangkok the following week. But of course, that’s only the beginning, and soon after came the task of juggling the report amid other deadlines.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
I would like to find out from Malaysia’s Tourism & Culture Minister, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, what checks and balances are in place to ensure funds collected from the tourism tax are not misused.

I would also like to find out why no dialogue took place with hotel associations prior to the implementation of this tax. Is this the new norm, where the government bulldozes through things despite loud protests from stakeholders, such as the hoteliers who are made to collect the tourism tax for the government?

 

Mimi Hudoyo, editor, Indonesia

Hardest assignment in 2017
The hardest assignment for me, ironically, was getting a simple quote from an airline chief. It seems to me that some airline PRs (the policy is to go through PR) are only interested in sending out press releases but are not interested in entertaining queries from the media, even when there is no controversial issue.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
President Joko Widodo. He has no tourism background but he must be an expert of sorts considering his tourism vision. I am curious to know how he came up with the vision of tourism becoming an important focus during his administration. What makes him so confident about the sector that he remains true to his vision and is willing to “walk his talk”, as shown in the allocation of budget for tourism marketing and development, and the support of other government departments in pro-tourism policies.

I would also like to learn if there was anything he would change for the betterment of tourism if he is elected for a second term in 2019.

 

Pamela Chow, reporter, Singapore

Hardest assignment in 2017
A month after joining the team, I was tasked to deliver an analysis on the call for change in the local travel agents association NATAS. With limited resources and contacts, as well as the tension of recent closures and conflicts hanging over the industry, I had a small window within which to familiarise myself with the veterans, and vice-versa, and to work the ground for a more in-depth understanding of the current state of affairs.

With the help of TTG Asia’s editors, this was the hardest but also the most meaningful assignment for me this year, as it gave me a taste of the meat and bone of tourism and cemented my presence in the industry early on.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
I would like to have lunch with the CEO and founder of TripAdvisor, Steve Kaufer, to pick his brain on whether he’s keeping a watchful eye on travel agencies and why. The majority of agents in Singapore are feeling an inertia in investing in online operations, and an online magnate that influences traveller behaviour can provide valuable insights on how traditional players can gain a footing in the digital age.

 

Rachel AJ Lee, sub-editor

Hardest assignment in 2017
Visit Japan Travel Mart. This was the first time I was sent on an overseas assignment alone, and it was exciting, exhilarating and stressful. I wanted to live up to the expectations of my editors, and emerge from the show armed with fresh information and ideas, as well as  write newsy and interesting articles.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
Wee Teng Wen. Because it’s not easy to create your own legacy when you’re an heir to the UOB banking empire in Singapore, but he has managed to forge his own path with The Lo & Behold Group in the F&B scene for over a decade.

This year, he sprang into the hotel space with The Warehouse Hotel. I would like to speak with him about his penchant for business, the challenges he faces, the inspiration behind his first hotel and whether more hotels are in his future plans.

 

Yixin Ng, sub-editor

Hardest assignment in 2017
My core responsibility is in sub-editing, so I must say any reporting assignment still presents a welcome challenge.

A change in scenery, different moving parts to manage, and the looming possibility of not turning out a worthy story. I imagine these are what keep many reporters on their toes, but also what make the job so much fun. And I can personally attest to that based on my experience in covering ILTM Asia in Shanghai in June!

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
It would have to be Ho Kwon Ping. Having grown up in Singapore in the 90s/00s, when Banyan Tree was already a household name, I recall riding in the car with my mom and hearing about a hotel company that contributes to livelihoods by using soaps made by poorer communities. It’s a hazy anecdote but, suffice to say, sustainability has become a much bigger buzzword in the industry (and Banyan Tree itself has taken the boutique concept to new places both geographically and strategically). It would be great to hear about the new meanings that enabling practices hold in the hospitality world today.

 

Paige Lee Pei Qi, assistant editor, special projects

Hardest assignment in 2017
Since we started the new special project division this year, I took on a new role where I work closely with clients to create advertorials. It is a fresh responsibility, yet challenging at the same time as I have to ensure the client’s demands in terms of content and layout are met accordingly. It can also get tricky with multiple rounds of changes required while trying to meet tight production deadlines.

One industry expert you’d love to chat with in 2018
Robert Khoo, retired CEO of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS). Following his retirement in 2013 after serving as CEO for over a decade, NATAS has courted a flurry of media headlines with the internal spat among its members which saw a separate travel fair being organised by a new travel association. Thereafter, we saw the NATAS president stepping out in June this year after the cessation of his travel agency.

It would be interesting to capture the thoughts of Khoo on this dramatic series of events and find out what advice he has for NATAS.

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