SEAHIS 2018: Vietnam’s “Crazy” Growth

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SEAHIS 2018: Vietnam’s “Crazy” Growth

Last Updated
10 April 2020
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It was a no-holds-barred session on Southeast Asia’s most exciting market on Tuesday at the Southeast Asia Hotel Investors’ Summit 2018 (SEAHIS 2018).

Attendees at the Westin Grand Sukhumvit heard CEO David Keen lead a panel on Vietnam’s booming hotel industry, with panelists Michael Piro of Indochina Capital, Gonzalo Macedo of Melia Hotels and Kenneth Atkinson of Grant Thornton (Vietnam) sharing thoughts candidly.

Concerns were raised over what the panelists considered to be unplanned growth, with a shared fear that lack of control over development could see pristine environments like Phu Quoc become “washed up in development, excitement and greed.”

For more insights, see TTG Asia’s write up of the event.

David also took part in a discussion on building a new brand from scratch. Speaking with Mark Edleson of Alila Hotels and Resorts, James Mabey of The Standard and Michael Piro, the panel enjoyed a lively back-and-forth on the pros and cons of creating your own brand. All agreed that today, the best brands have moved away from the cookie-cutter approach, and focus on creating authentic, meaningful experiences.

There was also consensus on the failure of big brands to adapt to local destinations and cultures. Local owners are driven to create their own brands, or be forced to conform to international standards and procedures in a destination where they just don’t make sense.

The conversation ended on the topic of bringing highly distinctive brands to new markets and the challenges implicit in importing, say, Standard Hotels to Asia. So much of Standard Hotels is about the vibe, culture and community – intangibles that are impossible to simply pick up and drop down in a completely different cultural landscape.

Nation Branding in Maldives and Sri Lanka

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Nation Branding in Maldives and Sri Lanka

Last Updated
10 April 2020
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The hospitality sector is defining external perceptions of South Asian countries in the absence of adequate government funding for proper nation branding, according to David Keen.

Speaking in an interview with Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times, the Bangkok-based branding expert praised private companies in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, in particular, for taking up the slack when it comes to building positive perceptions of their respective countries abroad.

“What is happening in many countries – South Asia and in particular, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – is that there aren’t enough budgets or state financial support in the definition of the nation brand,” he said.

“It has been left to the private sector to do that job and I think particularly in the Maldives the private sector has done a wonderful job.”

That Keen singled out Maldives is not surprising. The nation’s very identity is defined by hospitality and its position as one of the world’s most sought-after and exclusive tourism destinations. It is in this context that hospitality brands have played a significant role in defining how the nation is perceived, often succeeding where government agencies have failed.

QUO CEO David Keen.

“Maldives is an incredible canvas for brands, because under the one island, one resort concept, each island is a fresh canvas. And each island is set apart from the island next door… It’s that distinction – the cumulative impact that all these elements have on each other – that forms that brand,” said Keen.

The situation in neighbouring Sri Lanka is not so different. As Sri Lanka Tourism struggles to get a long-awaited marketing campaign off the ground, innovators within the private sector have picked up the slack with a willingness to express the nation’s personality through innovative brands.

“Nation branding has to be defined by the people, by the infrastructure, by the technology,” said Keen. “It’s the people of the nation that defines its beauty, the culture, and the warmth … that’s the way a destination is defined.”

You can read the full The Sunday Times interview with David Keen here. For more on nation branding, check out this Guardian article from 2017.

CEO David Keen Talks ‘Brand Sri Lanka’

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CEO David Keen Talks ‘Brand Sri Lanka’

Last Updated
10 April 2020
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QUO has been involved in the branding of quite a few ‘household names’ in Sri Lankan hospitality, including Jetwing, Sun Aqua and Galle Face Hotel and CEO David Keen frequently visits the country for business.

On his latest trip, the Daily Financial Times Sri Lanka caught up with him for insights on destination marketing in Sri Lanka, the challenges faced by local operators and areas that need improvement.

Read the full article and David’s recommendations for ‘Brand Sri Lanka’ here.

Recap of Thailand Tourism Forum 2019

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Recap of Thailand Tourism Forum 2019

Last Updated
10 April 2020
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Bangkok’s 8th Annual Thailand Tourism Forum on Monday drew its largest crowd yet, with tickets selling out well in advance and the conference room at InterContinental holding an engaged, standing room-only crowd.

They gathered to hear provocative new ideas from thought leaders like Bill Barnett, of C9 Hotelworks; Supaluck Umpujh, of The Mall Group; and our own CEO, David Keen.

The mood was kept light through nine short Q&A presentations – one presenter who was celebrating a birthday even got a pie to the face. We see you, Eric Levy.

The topics covered were wide and vast. From the effects of new rail lines, to catering to new demographics of tourists, to innovations in room keys and more.

QUO CEO David Keen posed hard-hitting questions to Diethelm Travel CEO Stephan Roemer. The focus of their lively chat was the successes and shortcomings of tourism in the country. They explored whether success can be measured by the sheer volume of arriving tourists alone, how to repair an overwhelmed infrastructure in Bangkok, and how travel industry insiders can help enhance the reputation of Thailand.

Among the most interesting exchanges was a discussion about green tourism and the costs and challenges of developing the sector. Eric Ricaurte, CEO of Greenview, sat down with Central Group’s Sustainable Development GM Prae Piromya. They talked over projects that extend green tourism initiatives into the more far-flung provinces, such as a farmer’s market aimed at tourists in Udon Thani, and programs to teach visitors Thai weaving techniques in rural areas.

When all was said and done, the large group adjourned for a spirited networking session where the bubbly, craft beer, and conversation flowed well into the evening.

We’re looking forward to see how these industry players make good on their ideas this time next year. You can bet we’ll be in the audience.

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