What were your first thoughts when you were elected as the President of Skål Singapore?
When I took over as the President in Singapore, the club was facing major challenges. Arthur Wee who presided over the club prior to my term had helped resolve many issues. When I took over, my duty was to ensure that the club could stabilize. I was honoured that I had been entrusted with this position and was determined to do my best to maintain happiness and friendship, a motto that we reinforce during our toasts in all our functions.
What were your best experiences as the President of Skål Singapore?
Singapore hosted the Asian Area Assembly and it was a pleasure to be able to receive Skålleagues from around the region and to look after them for those few days. Paul Armstrong was the World President then and that was a great honour for the Club as well. Mr Lim Chin Beng, who was the head of Singapore Tourism Promotion Board and Singapore Airlines, also actively supported our functions when invited. The club enjoyed great success in those days as indeed it still does!
What is different in the Club now as compared to 17 years ago?
Skål Club was formally more of a fellowship group where industry heads met on a monthly basis to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Today, it has evolved to become more of a business networking activity although the friendship content is still essential.
What is the next biggest challenge for the Club in Singapore? In the world?
The answer to both questions is to continue to develop its role as a contributor to the growth and management of the tourism industry. Young Skål is an example of an avenue where we can help the young potential managers to draw on the experience of the industry leaders and this opportunity should be worked on. Skål needs to continue to develop its relationship with other industry associations and to participate in their activities. For example, Skål is increasingly taking part in industry trade fairs, not as a seller but to offer assistance to participants in the event.
A brief bio about yourself.
I joined Avis in the United Kingdom and after two years, I was given the opportunity to relocate to Singapore when the company set up a new operation here. I held various posts in Avis Asia Pacific and travelled widely in the Asia Pacific region which included a four year stint in Malaysia. Eventually, I was promoted to the position of Regional Manager, Asia, and held the post for 10 years. In 1995, I decided to run my own business and founded Hawk Rent a Car. A decade later, our company has a substantial foothold in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. I have held several industry association positions including roles on the Executive Committees of the Kuala Lumpur Travel Association (KLTA) and MATTA. In Kuala Lumpur, I was also Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President of Skål. Back in Singapore I was Vice President of NATAS under PR Gopal and the Vice President and President of Skål. I was later the Treasurer, Vice President, President and International Councilor of Skål Asia. Internationally, I sat on the Executive Committee from 1994 and eventually became World President in 2000.
What significant contributions have you made to the industry and how have these affected your life?
I have been fortunate to be able to assist in a number of key events and developments over the years, but in particular I would single out the three following contributions. 1) I was one of the pioneers as an international vehicle rental executive in Asia and was able to participate in the progress of the industry in the region, put systems in place and market it widely. Many of the executives in the industry today worked with me earlier and we continue to be good friends. 2) While with NATAS, I was given the task of overseeing industry training and together with PR Gopal and Pakir Singh, worked closely with the training department of Singapore International Airlines to lay the groundwork for training courses and implemented formal training initiatives. 3) When I got into the International Executive Committee of Skål, I introduced strategic planning which resulted in numerous positive initiatives such as the establishment of Young Skål and the introduction of professional industry content at the Skål Congresses.
Any words of wisdom for the younger generation of tourism individuals and aspiring tourism industry entrants?
The travel industry is a massive industry and it will keep growing almost indefinitely. Increasingly easy travel makes the world seems smaller and at the same time, the world’s population continues to grow. As a consequence, we have an increasing responsibility for this planet we live on. Our business is a fascinating one which allows us to meet people and to see places, but as we continue to develop our industry, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are custodians for the future generations. We must do our best to pass on a sustainable global society of which we can be proud.
Your last word of wisdom?
Skål is one of the largest travel associations in the world with over 20,000 members comprising executives from every sector of the industry. It gives unparalleled opportunities for people to network as friends, business colleagues and partners. In itself, Skål has no business agenda and acts as a meeting ground for people from all parts of the travel industry to convene. Skål has over six hundred clubs in over 80 countries. As a member, you belong to a worldwide club. Nurture this opportunity, use it and you will see that you will be rewarded substantially.