TTG top list: travel business leaders to watch in 2019

The TTG Editorial team reveals who’s on our to-watch list and the stories we wish to cover

Karen Yue, group editor
CEO to look out for in 2019 There isn’t one in particular but I relish any opportunity to meet with a business leader who goes out of his/her way to grow his/her people and encourages activities that benefit the wider community his/her organisation operates in.

Industry pet topic The legacy of professional associations, which is often unseen by the general public. In a recent interview with the AIDS Society of India’s president, Ishwar Gilada for TTGassociations, I learnt that the association’s intensive promotion of far more affordable AIDS/HIV medication produced by qualified Indian pharmaceutical companies and their export to Africa have allowed more patients from that continent to access life-saving medication.

Karen Yue, Xinyi LIang-Pholsena, Yixin Ng

Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, editor, TTG Asia
CEO to look out for in 2019 I’m definitely keeping an eye on Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip, because she’s at the rare confluence of travel, technology and female leadership. Sun is also a vocal proponent of female empowerment and women’s rights, and has introduced female-friendly policies to the Ctrip workplace, including bold ones like reimbursing female executives for egg freezing procedures and breastfeeding mums to bring their babies along for work trips, something that progressive companies should emulate.

Industry pet topic I’m constantly intrigued by the transformative power of technology on the travel and tourism landscape. Technology has enabled travel companies to provide better service and engage with their customers, but yet people and good old service remain at the heart of this travel business. It’s a tightrope connecting people and technology in travel, and discovering the innovation, opportunities as well as challenges – and this space gets me excited.

Yixin Ng, assistant editor, TTG Asia Luxury
CEO to look out for in 2019 Anyone who can show how we can champion the democratisation of travel (the more the merrier), minimise impact on communities and the environment, and retain authenticity in the process of brokering experiences – all at the same time.

In the industry today, there is no shortage of players working hard to uphold any two of these three values. But to simultaneously champion all three seems an almost impossible, and highly conflictual, undertaking for a travel business.

Industry pet topic Aspirational travel, be it exceptional travel experiences that speak to individual longings and values, or restorative getaways that help people pursue their aspirations back home.

Mimi Hudoyo, S Puvaneswary, Rachel AJ Lee

Mimi Hudoyo, editor, Indonesia
CEO to look out for in 2019 Arief Budiman, chairman of the General Elections Commission. In the 2019 election year, Indonesia’s budding democracy and the wide support for the two presidential candidates will need a strong and fair leader to head the elections commission. A conducive election environment is important to keep the country’s tourism sector going. After all, an election is a celebration of democracy and should be a time for festivities, and not keep travellers away.

Industry pet topic The hotel industry. It’s a very dynamic sector with ever-changing, trends. Brands are growing fast – sometimes interestingly confusing, and likewise for the ownership. The hotel industry, especially for Indonesia, never bores me.

S Puvaneswary, editor, Malaysia/Brunei
CEO to look out for in 2019 AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, whom I hope will spearhead the launch of new regional routes to smaller Australian cities. I’m keeping an eye out for direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tasmania – a destination I would love to visit.

Industry pet topic I am concerned about the impact of travel and tourism on climate change. Governments, the private sector and individual travellers should make bigger efforts to drive sustainable development to avoid a bleak future.

Rachel AJ Lee, subeditor
CEO to look out for in 2019 Bruce Poon Tip, CEO of G Adventures. I like that G Adventures tours go off-the-beaten track, and the introduction of the Ripple Score shows that the company cares for the local communities it visits, and is a great initiative that spreads the tourism dollar. I look forward to see what other tourism initiatives the company will come up with.

Industry pet topic Responsible travel, which is intertwined with overtourism and pollution (think Boracay), and rural tourism. I think governments and stakeholders should do more to better disperse tourists, or perhaps think of feasible ways to proactively drive traffic elsewhere, instead of just paying lip service. If we don’t balance our human and natural resources properly, I fear that tourism may actually ruin destinations instead of helping the economy.

Pamela Chow, Paige Lee Pei Qi, Marissa Carruthers

Pamela Chow, reporter, Singapore
CEO to look out for in 2019 Lionel Yeo, who made a noteworthy shift as the chief of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to Singapore’s ride-sharing frontrunner Grab. It will be interesting to monitor how Yeo’s previous tenure in a statutory board will inform his role as CEO advisor in Grab’s development, especially after Indonesian rival Go-Jek enters the game.

Industry pet topic STB’s Passion Made Possible campaign launch has considerably re-invigorated the local tourism scene, spawning a bumper crop of innovative Singapore tours and activities. It is eye-opening to see veterans and new blood alike presenting unique to-dos and must-sees, such as Teochew opera and after-dark neighborhood walks.

Paige Lee Pei Qi, assistant editor, special projects
CEO to look out for in 2019 Anthony Tan, CEO & co-founder at Grab. This ride-hailing app has already expanded aggressively into food delivery and mobile payment solutions. I can’t wait to see what else Grab has gotten up their sleeves, especially with keen competitors like Go-Jek coming into Singapore.

Industry pet topic It’s not surprising that artificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword these days and even more so for the travel industry. I love to watch how AI brings about revolutionary changes in the way we travel – it’s almost shocking to see what can only belong to a dystopian society become a reality today.

Marissa Carruthers, correspondent, Indochina
CEO to look out for in 2019 Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat launched his first ocean clean-up in the North Pacific in September this year. By 2020, Boyan hopes a full fleet will be clearing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I hope this reminds the tourism industry of the part it must play in keeping our oceans clean and protecting marine life.

Industry pet topic My passion lies within grassroots and community-based tourism that scratches beneath a country’s surface and delves deeper beyond the usual tourist sights. The environment and nature are also topics close to my heart, especially living in Cambodia where forest and wildlife are dwindling. It is incredible to see more industry players stepping up with innovative tourism products that focus on conservation of wildlife and natural resources.

Rosa Ocampo, correspondent, Philippines
CEO to look out for in 2019 Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway. Will Buffett up his investment portfolio in the airline industry? His Berkshire Hathaway already partly owns United, American, Delta and Southwest airlines. And with the continuing growth in the hospitality industry, might he be tempted to own mega-hotel, mega-travel corporations and mega-technology providers?

Industry pet topic Urbanisation continues to uglify a growing number of Philippine destinations – metro Manila, Tagaytay, Baguio, Mactan Island and Cebu are already casualties, and Iloilo is getting there. More and more destinations are suffering from overpopulation, traffic congestion, pollution and flooding. We know we need town planning and to follow existing rules and regulations, but political will is lacking.

Prudence Lui, Rohit Kaul, Feizal Samath

Prudence Lui, correspondent, Hong Kong
CEO to look out for in 2019 The helmsman of the soon-to-established Travel Industry Authority, which will replace Travel Industry Council as a statuary body to enhance the quality and promote sustainable, long-term development of the travel industry. I’m interested to know why he’s willing to take up this hot seat, his vision and how he plans to walk the trade into a comprehensive licensing regime for travel agents, tourist guides or tour escorts.

Industry pet topic Merger and acquisitions of travel agent business. As many family-run, homegrown agents have been acquired by investors, there are only a few operators left in the marketplace so it will be interesting to see how they stand on their own feet amid the competition. This year the 61-year Lotus Tours was acquired by Corporate Travel Management; who’s next?

Rohit Kaul, correspondent, India
CEO to look out for in 2019 Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of Indian e-commerce payment system and digital wallet company, Paytm. The company has emerged as the strongest player in this digital payment segment. It will be interesting to see how Paytm is working with Indian travel agents and hotels to popularise its digital payment platform.

Industry pet topic The health of Indian inbound sector because the current status of Indian inbound arrivals doesn’t justify the true tourism potential of India. Apathy from the government sector as well as lack of innovation from private players have been major stumbling blocks in the growth of Indian inbound tourism.

Feizal Samath, correspondent, Sri Lanka/Maldives
CEO to look out for in 2019 Dileep Mudadeniya, head of brand marketing, Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts. He’s been a game changer not only at Cinnamon but also the country at large, conceptualising innovative ideas to take the company and country brands forward by bringing in high-profile events (think beauty pagents and West End musicals) and attracting tourists from the region.

Industry pet topic Without a doubt, it’s the struggle to get Sri Lanka’s long-awaited, global destination marketing on track. The project has struggled for the past three years, bogged down by bureaucracy and cumbersome procedures, frustrating an industry which has been waiting patiently for a new country marketing blitz to tell the world that Sri Lanka is back in business!

Julian Ryall, Tiara Maharani

Julian Ryall, correspondent, Japan
CEO to look out for in 2019 I hope to see radical changes in many of Japan’s traditionally run business sectors. In the airline sector, All Nippon Airways is best positioned to lead that sort of change and I hope that president and CEO Yuji Hirako has what it takes to see that sort of evolution through. Asia needs the open skies and cheap flights that travellers in Europe and North America now take for granted.

Industry pet topic There has been so much growth in Japan’s hotels sector, from the budget category all the way up to the luxury end of the spectrum, that it can be hard to keep up with the changes. But this country really needs to up its game on the accommodation front, and the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the anticipated arrival of 40 million sports fans and regular tourists has revolutionised the hospitality sector.

Tiara Maharani, correspondent, Indonesia
CEO to look out for in 2019 Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s minister for national development planning (Bappenas). During a speech at the National Tourism Ministry Meeting, Bambang said that he is developing a strategy for tourism to be a pillar of the Indonesian economy, and that a quick win for Indonesia’s economy is through tourism and business events. I am curious to know what makes Bambang confident about the tourism sector and how he would convince president Joko Widodo to implement the pro-tourism policies.

Industry pet topic Sustainable tourism. Indonesia is endowed with extraordinary natural resources and that must be preserved. Both the natural environment (such as beaches, forests, waterways) as well as the built environment (such as historic buildings and ruins) must be preserved for an area to be environmentally sustainable. This can usually be achieved by getting the locals involved in the tourism industry.

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