What’s on the minds of CEOs in 2019?

Digital disruption, trade wars and political changes are some of the core issues seated front and centre in the minds of Asia’s travel business chiefs as the new year approaches. TTG Asia rounds up the top concerns of these industry leaders, and takes a peek at their reading list this year-end

Gloria Guevara Manzo
President & CEO
World Travel & Tourism Council

The issue of capacity growth. As of 2017, there were four billion air travellers worldwide and it will double to 7.8 billion by 2036, according to IATA. However, that doesn’t mean the same growth in airports, so more efficient processing of passengers is needed.
The solution is biometrics technology, which is addressed by our Seamless Traveller Journey initiative to pilot biometric data use throughout the passenger journey, from airport, cruise, hotels, car rental… to everything.

The second issue is crisis management. The next disaster is just a matter of when and where, be it an earthquake, tsunami or disease outbreak. We need to be prepared and manage (disasters) better. We work with governments to provide a protocol and be more engaged.

The third issue is about sustainable growth, which covers the future of jobs, social responsibility, human trafficking, illegal wildlife trade, and destination stewardship to reduce overcrowding and climate change.

The Robots Are Coming! The Future of Jobs in the Age of Automation by Andres Oppenheimer. This book is coming out next year.

Mark Meehan
Managing director Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa

1) The trade disagreements and tariffs between the US and China will have an impact on trade and travel between the regions. I foresee potential opportunities as well as investments moving to other developing markets in the near term.

2) Some of these investments will certainly be for the fast growth in ASEAN’s travel sector, creating interesting opportunities as travel brands and companies rush to invest in this region. Strong Chinese brands such as Ctrip as well as major Western brands like Expedia and Booking are investing and expanding in the region.

3) Ensuring we have the right resources in the right markets at the right time. The wider geographical region I now manage offers great opportunities to align teams and technology around developing and fast-growing markets.

My daughter, who has just started at a new school, has been given a reading list of books as long as my arm. In a moment of madness I said I would read some of the books to be more understanding of what she is ‘enduring’, so I am currently reading Gulliver’s Travels – quite appropriate!

Arthur Kiong,
Far East Hospitality

In 2019, we will be launching three new hotels on Sentosa Island. That’s a total of 839 new room inventory, increasing the island’s supply by 27 per cent.

Obviously it is incumbent on us to create new demand – business travel/MICE, mid-tier travellers and niche markets – to feed the new supply and not cannibalise the existing business.

The vast majority of hotels on Sentosa is in the luxury and upscale tiers. We wish to complement existing hotels by addressing underserved segments.

We will be synchronising efforts (to attract new sources of customers) with various stakeholders including the Sentosa Development Corporation, Sentosa Harbourfront Business Association and Singapore Tourism Board.

Books by Stephen Meyers, Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, are on my reading list. I am fascinated by how consciousness comes into being and learning about this through what we now know about cosmology and developments in the quantum realm. I particularly enjoy learning about how modern science is questioning the premises of macro-evolution theories; that life came about through a mindless process over billions of years.

Quek Swee Kuan
Sentosa Development Corporation

2019 will be an exciting milestone for Sentosa Development Corporation, as we will see several initiatives coming together to propel The State of Fun into the next stage of growth. Playing a crucial role in shaping Sentosa’s future will be our masterplan, which will build on our strengths as a holiday island-in-the-city offering an array of day-to-night leisure experiences in one place.

We will soon share more details of our plans, including efforts to strengthen leisure experiences through the curation of new attractions, improvement of transport connectivity and enhancement of our popular beaches, while ensuring efficient land usage and environmental sustainability.

In 2019, we will also deepen our engagement with locals and tourists. We will collaborate with well-known brands to bring in unique and exciting offerings, like we did with Disney for the 2018 edition of Sentosa Sandsation. We will also strengthen our engagement with the international MICE and leisure markets, and leverage technology and data such as through our refreshed MySentosa app. Stay tuned!

I intend to read Why Ecology Matters by Charles Krebs as we finalise the Sentosa masterplan.

Angie Stephen
Managing director for Asia-Pacific
Royal Caribbean International

Port development opportunities in South-east Asia for creation of more destinations and more berthing space for larger ships, as our 4,900-guest Quantum Class ships are making more calls in the region.

We will also continue to focus on our travel agent training in view of our new offerings on the global and regional cruising scene, notably Ovation of the Seas’ first Alaskan season and Oasis of the Seas’ Mediterranean cruises lined up next year.

12 Rules For Life – An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan B Peterson

Angeline Tang
Regional director – leisure travel & partnerships, Asia Avis Budget Group

More Asians are travelling overseas for their holidays, opting for more free-and-easy holidays over group, sit-in-coach or packaged tours.

Self-drive vacations are getting more popular among Asians, allowing travellers to move at their own pace and customise their own itineraries, while still enjoying hassle-free bookings through travel agencies.

As travellers today become more adventurous, we will continue to engage with travel agents to help them better understand self-drive holidays, car rental booking processes and terminologies, plan self-drive itineraries for their customers and of course, to have their customers drive with Avis and Budget!

We will continue to grow our leisure outbound business actively through our local outbound teams and GSAs in key source markets within Asia. We will run more campaigns, promotions, events to engage the travel trade on the B2B2C segment.
To assist the travel trade to sell self-drive holidays, Avis Budget Group has recently launched beep, our one-stop portal for both the Avis and Budget brands. There are training modules, destination and driving guides, booking tools, making it easier for travel trade professionals to offer products and services for their customers. Rates are also commissionable and at the end of the training, travel trade professionals are also rewarded with a certificate of completion of the training modules.

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic, This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn, and Robert Kuok – A Memoir co-authored by Andrew Tanzer.

Arief Yahya
Minister of tourism

First, disaster issues. In September 2017, Mount Agung erupted, followed by an earthquake in Lombok, then a tsunami in Donggala Palu. Travel advice from many countries were issued in the wake of these disasters, bringing serious impacts on Indonesia tourism. Tourists became hesitant to travel to destinations that were exposed to force majeure and disasters.

Second, political issues. 2019 is an election year in Indonesia. Tourist destinations need to ensure that domestic competition does not affect public trust of the country abroad, especially among tourists.

Third, zero-dollar tours, an issue we need to seriously control. This has happened in Thailand and Malaysia, and now it could also happen in Indonesia, especially in Bali, as some errant travel agents practise zero dollar tours.

Olivier Berrivin
Managing director, international operations, Asia
Best Western International

Among the many elements that might affect our development growth, the two major ones are economical and political as they are linked to investment decisions and some projects are being delayed until investors feel the markets are more stable.

Thailand is among our top three markets – the other being Vietnam and Japan – and with the general elections scheduled in early 2019 we hope the new government will keep developing infrastructures and promote tourism to a wider range of markets for the country to remain a top destination.

Other factors, like general safety, are also impacting tourism flows. The perfect example is the current drop of Chinese tourists, attributed mainly to the boat sinking incident in Phuket a few months ago.

Last but not least, an increasing number of new brands and soft brands are introduced by our main competitors and targeting the midscale segment, where we traditionally develop half of our new projects so it makes things a bit more challenging.

In addition, we are launching two new brands this year – Sadie and Aiden – and they will allow us to increase our footprint further by bringing quality projects to the markets in line with clients’ expectations.

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene; Neverwhere and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (probably my favourite this year!); and Legion by Brandon Sanderson.

Yuthasak Supasorn
Tourism Authority of Thailand

For 2019 and beyond, Thai tourism will emphasise on the promotion of responsible tourism. As a result of our unique geographical location, at the crossroads of Asia and within a few hours flying distance of some of Asia’s most populous cities, we see no shortage of numbers in the years ahead. The key will be to manage those numbers.

Hence, we are striving to reduce tourist congestion in the main hubs by promoting 55 secondary provincial destinations, upgrade the standards of safety and security, and inculcate a higher level of environmental consciousness across the entire industry.

Overall, we are aligning the future path of our industry in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Thailand is known all over the world for its superb tourism products and services as well as the friendliness and hospitality of its people. We now have to better balance quantity versus quality and marketing versus management. This will be our agenda for going forward.

My choice is Freakonomics written by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. This book captures my attention because its shows how economic methodology is implemented to substantiate the truth even if it goes against the beliefs of the majority of people, or two things that seem irrelevant turn out to have a cause and effect on each other. This would be a great book to kick off the new year to better deal with problems with an unconventional attitude in a fast-paced world.

Siew Kum Hong
Regional director Asia-Pacific

We see sustained growth in the region’s embrace of home sharing by both hosts and guests, and we will continue building out our product to better serve our community. Earlier this year, we launched Airbnb Plus, a selection of homes verified for quality and comfort. With around 3,000 listings around the world from Bali to Shanghai today, Airbnb Plus is part of our strategy to create an Airbnb for everyone, catering to the needs of every type of traveller.

In the corporate travel space, nearly 700,000 companies have signed up with Airbnb for Work to provide corporate road warriors the option of staying in a work-friendly home. Our latest expansion into teambuilding experiences and homes for offsites, meetings and relocations strengthened our corporate offerings. This brings the best of Airbnb to the professional world to help foster a sense of belonging, even at work.

Driven by a new experience-led economy where greater value is placed on experiences over ownership, Airbnb Experiences are growing rapidly in Asia-Pacific. We now have over 2,700 experiences in more than 200 markets in the region, creating a new wave of hospitality entrepreneurs who are sharing their passions with travellers seeking authentic travel experiences.

Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh; The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth by Chris Zook and James Allen; and Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Eric Gnock Fah
COO & co-founder

Rolling into 2019, the few issues and opportunities we have been watching closely  are:

•  Change of travellers’ preferences for things to do. As travellers worldwide are developing a more sophisticated selection of preferred activities during their travels, we strive to diversify our offerings in a variety of ways. This includes adding more off-the-beaten-path activities in popular destinations, as well as cities that are less-touristy or off the radar. This is in line with our global expansion into the US and Europe, which aims to further widen our offerings on the platform.

•  Travellers are currently also interested in one-off and seasonal events in-destination. According to a Klook survey across 12 user countries, 54 per cent of travellers have planned their trips around seasonal activities or one-off events, then booked flights and hotels to round out the itinerary. In response to the trend, Klook has already curated a selection of seasonal activities, including ones that highlight the fall foliage in Japan and South Korea, Oktoberfest in Munich, and the Yee Peng Festival in Chiang Mai. We will continue to curate similar offerings in 2019 to fulfill the demand for this market.

I plan to read this year’s issues of National Geographic at one go. I’ve always been a fan of the magazine and I used to read them on a monthly basis whenever they were released, but I couldn’t keep up this year due to my busy schedule.

Tamas Hanyi
General manager Asia-Pacific

Finnair is undergoing the fastest growth phase in our 95-year history. We have a clear strategy to focus on Asia-Europe traffic with increased capacity, new services and strong ambitions.

Finnair now serves 19 destinations in Asia and over 100 destinations in Europe, and we can connect these cities by flying the shortest route via Helsinki.

During this growth we have managed to improve our fuel efficiency by flying new A350 aircraft, however the rise in fuel prices is something we all need to be watching in 2019.

I plan to read Southeast Asia, An Introduction History by Milton Osborne. The culture and history of the region is extremely fascinating and this book will help to better understand the people in the daily life, both on business and personal level.

Johanes Widjaja
President director
Santika Indonesia Hotels & Resorts

The presidential and legislative elections in Indonesia. Whoever is elected president will have the power to pass new regulations into law that could have an impact on the hotel industry.

Another issue is growth of digital technology, which has given rise to increased competition from OTAs and a new breed of “invisible” competitors which are not in direct competition with us but still have a major impact on our hotel business.

Lastly, the hotel industry is experiencing rapid sales growth, driven by the boom in digital platforms as well as the more traditional offline sector. In order to embrace both (platforms), we have improved our loyalty membership system, My Value, by introducing a new app earlier this year and we are working to perfect the app by next year.

We are studying Hermawan Kertajaya’s Citizen 4.0 as our reference on how to act to address the needs of the millennial generation. We have also created Kampi, a new brand designed specifically for millennials  in response to the changing lifestyles of young people today.

Chang Theng Hwee
Scott Dunn Asia

Having just merged with Scott Dunn and switching to the Scott Dunn brand, it is of utmost importance that we ensure existing Country Holidays clients continue to book with us and have excellent relations with Scott Dunn. We will have to monitor that closely, as we execute our ambitious expansion plan in Asia as part of our two-pronged approach to build up bigger teams in Singapore and Hong Kong and reach out to new markets.

As in past year, travel-related articles and periodicals as well as management books, especially those on managing team cultures.

Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth
Bangkok Airways

Bangkok Airways is not only an airline business. Our aviation business synchronises airline, airports, airport-related business and strategic investments. Key growth strategies can be defined by each business:

• Airline: The key strategy is to be a regional airline with 70-plus airline partners in order to serve tourist destinations especially in South-east Asia with untried and unfound destinations. In 2019, the company is planning to sign codeshare agreement with two or three leading airlines as well as to deliberately select aircraft fleets to match with our route network with cost efficiency.

• Airport: As we own three airports in Thailand in Samui, Sukhothai and Trat, our airport business strategy is to expand and improve service facilities and infrastructures in order to accommodate more demand in the future.

• We are looking to build and manage additional airports both in Thailand and in the region; explore duty-free business partners to expand the airport business; set up an aviation training school to serve demand of airline industry; and explore aircraft refuelling business – BAFS in order to fulfil our airline and airport business

• Airport-related business: The company is expanding the business to various key airports in Thailand to facilitate direct flights about in-flight meal servings such as Bangkok Air Catering in Chiang Mai, which will start to operate by end of 2018.

Other business expansions: The company also has plan to build maintenance, repair and operating supplies (MRO). The MRO will be built at Sukhothai airport to serve customer target in the region.

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