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To Asia, with humility
Raini Hamdi


AFTER hearing countless views of speakers/panelists and interviewing a string of industry CEOs at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit last month, I can only conclude there is new thinking and approach towards Asia in the West.

Asia humbles Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide president & CEO, Fritz van Paasschen, who said a huge fear of his was disappointing Asian customers staying in Starwood hotels that might not meet their expectations.

Because of Asia, Starwood is building better hotels today, he said.

Humility is also used by Brett Tollman, president & CEO of The Travel Corporation, who told me: “We approach this market (Asia) with great humility as Westerners coming in.”

Same goes with Michael Frenzel, CEO, TUI AG, who said “we should be aware that these (emerging) markets have their own character and their own business surrounding, that we must respect”.

A shift from the West to the rest is not new. We all know that on the globe, the South and the East are growing faster. What is new is the final acceptance that the rest of the world no longer is “the periphery”.

As Parag Khanna, director, Hybrid Reality Institute said in his keynote to a session on our rapidly-changing world, for the first time in history, “globalisation is truly global”.

The world in the 1990s looked like this: the US in the centre and the EU, Japan, China and India around it.

The world today? All regions connected and interdependent on one another. “We are now at globalisation 5.0 and it cannot be reversed,” Khanna said. “And globalisation is no longer centred on the US. Every region matters now. Every region is building alliances with everyone else. The world is connecting by land, air and sea, and in cyberspace.”

Globalisation 5.0 is what tipped the CEOs’ minds to recognise that every customer, every business partner, no matter where they are in the world, is an equal. That’s when respect can enter and with it, real understanding.

It does not mean that the Asian guest has become superior – by no means has the West become the rest. As Tollman said: “It’s not about being Asian-centric; it’s about being customer-centric.”

Globalisation, said van Paasschen, is not Westernisation. Well, neither is it Asianisation – not even when Asia has helped him build better hotels.

I left Tokyo, where the summit was held, with optimism that travel and tourism in the next 10 years will smash the glass ceiling in service and innovation.

Because its leaders finally get it.



This article was first published in TTG Asia, May 18 issue, on page 4. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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