Thailand Tourism Forum 2020

Hospitality experts confronted pressing trends head-on at the Thailand Tourism Forum 2020.

QUO wowed a sold-out crowd at the Ninth Annual Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF) 2020—‘The Big Bang—Epic Ideas, Scorekeeping and Straight Talk’, a free-of-charge event organised by C9 Hotelworks Hospitality Consulting Group and The American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AMCHAM).

Over 1,000 travel professionals gathered at The InterContinental Bangkok and were treated to Instagram branding insight by QUO CEO David Keen and Deputy Content Director Laurel Tuohy.

Thailand Tourism Forum 2020

Our presentation, ‘Eye Candy in Instagrammable Thailand’, offered thoughts on how hospitality brands in Thailand can best leverage the photo and video sharing platform, highlighting domestic brands that get it right, alongside some thoughts on what not to do.

Throughout the afternoon, attendees were amused, enthralled, educated and invigorated by talks on big data, female-centric travel, the future of luxury tourism and more.

One memorable moment came from hotel designer extraordinaire Bill Bensley, who addressed the timely topic of ‘Sensible, Sustainable Solutions’. Using large-scale paintings, he theorised on the best- and worst-case scenarios for tourism in 2050, mentioning underwater cities that could only be toured via glass-bottomed ark and the cures for human ills unearthed in the rainforest.

We laughed, we learned, we networked. Cheers to another busy, successful year of tourism in Thailand!

To view our full presentation, click here.

HICAP 2019 Recap

From OYO and the fast growth of the economy brand, to Bensley and the death of  ‘greenwashing’

All eyes are on Hong Kong as we round the third day of the annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) at Kerry Hotel Hong Kong. Organised by The BHN Group, the event brings together the world’s leading decision-makers, advisors and investors for the travel and tourism industries.

Among them is QUO CEO David Keen, who moderated a panel yesterday entitled, ‘Economy Hotels—Lower-End Means High-End Returns’. The panel featured Horwath HTL Director Eunice Aw, Kerzner International Executive Vice President of Global Business and Real Estate Development Paul Macpherson, and Artyzen Hospitality Group President Robbert N. van der Maas.

This spirited discussion allowed the industry insiders to weigh in on lower-cost, higher-yield hotels and the finer points for owners of these investments.

While David has overseen branding of properties at all price points for over 20 years, Eunice was able to bring her specialised knowledge of Asian hotel financial feasibility to the conversation. On the hospitality executive management forefront, Paul is well-versed on the business in Dubai and the Middle East and Robbert, an operations executive for Hyatt and MGM before co-founding his own company, has expertise on the industry in China, Bali, Hawaii and the Maldives.

Looming large in their discussion was the impact of economy hotel chains like OYO and how the space between this most simplistic version of a hospitality brand—really just a label, a sign, and red pillows in disparate properties with varying offerings—stands up against the more defined economy brands like IBIS or Yotel.

The panel ventured to ask if there could be another level of service and branding in between and how much developing that space would rely on design and service.

They delved next into functionality versus meaningful lifestyle brands. Paul made some salient points about how both are able to multiply very quickly using differing strategies. Robbert noted a market gap in the space between economy and midscale brands and the opportunity in terms of development in this segment.

The excitement continued this morning at a panel entitled ‘Development Track: Beyond Gateway Markets—Second Can Be First’. Moderated by Cyndy Tan Jarabata, President of Jabara Hospitality, the discussion gave way to a lively chat led by inimitable hotel designer Bill Bensley.

David jumped into the discussion to touch on the greater purpose of the hospitality industry and the men agreed on one thing—that all projects should serve a greater purpose, whether sustainability, doing good or being good on a level far deeper than the current persistent industry tend of ‘greenwashing’, or making brands sound more environmentally friendly than they truly are. Food waste and solar power were just two of the topics volleyed in this segment before the conversation came to a close.

Overall, the event presented fresh ideas about great design, budget options, sustainability and the betterment of communities.

David left Hong Kong inspired and excited about the industry. Don’t hesitate to contact us or email David directly if you’d like to hear more. And keep an eye on this space for further information on the soul of QUO and how it’s evolving.

QUO Advocacy: The State of the World’s Children

It has been 20 years since UNICEF’s flagship annual publication focused on nutrition

With limited time and a need for maximum flexibility, QUO worked with UNICEF Communications, New York, to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to accompany the launch of their State of the World’s Children 2019 in London, yesterday. UNICEF provided us with an abundance of compelling images, and the result is a stark reminder of our need to care for the least fortunate—and most innocent—among us.

This year’s report, Children, food and nutrition: Growing well in a changing world, is a strong reminder that this issue is still one of critical importance. “One in three children is not growing well – either stunted/wasted or overweight. At least one in two children suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient deficiencies. They may look well nourished but in fact are not getting sufficient nutrients and vitamins to grow and develop to their full potential.”

Given the scale of impact on children by this triple threat of stunting/wasting, overweight and hidden hunger, the report calls for ACTION; a fact highlighted in the presentation by reserving one of only 20 slides for this word to stand alone.

As the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore spoke accompanied by the presentation, ending on a positive note and citing a number of successful UNICEF programmes in countries throughout the world that are already working to overcome nutritional challenges.

PHIST 2019: Protecting Phuket and the Planet

Phuket has been drowning in discarded single-use plastics for years, but the tides may be turning.

Yesterday, the second-annual Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism Forum (PHIST) convened at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa. The event was attended by hoteliers representing the islands top hotel chains—coming together to discuss strategies that more promote more sustainable island tourism.

Topics covered certainly included the usual suspects—replacing plastic straws with paper and using glass water bottles on their properties among them. There was also a great deal of spirited discussion.


During a panel on plastic waste entitled ‘Let’s Talk Trash’, QUO CEO David Keen was joined by his daughter Ani Keen, a featured NextGen speaker, along with Guy Heywood, COO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.

In their discussion, Guy noted the trickle-up effect of the sustainability efforts of smaller resort chains, mentioning the game-changing news that IHG plans to eliminate single-use plastic amenity bottles from all of their hotel rooms. Once rolled out, he noted that as many as 300 million bottles will be saved from landfills by this one decision.

David is doubly focused on this issue because of its connection to local culture. In his mind, culture is so strongly tied to the environment that it’s impossible to look at climate change issues without seeing their impact on local heritage. Protecting the environment is paramount to preserving culture, the basis of tourism in many destinations.

PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism) forum is one of Asia’s largest sustainability conferences with over 1,000 people attending the daylong event at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa. Organised by Phuket Hotels Association (PHA), the event also covered green design, marketing sustainability and more, providing a chance for members of Gen Z – like Ani – to address today’s hospitality leaders and discuss issues with long-lasting impact. This year’s forum stepped up to start important conversations in the hospitality and tourism field – and left industry leaders with a lot to think about.

As the event’s promo video said, “Phuket’s brand is the beach. We need to take care of it.”

Interested in what else Phuket’s hotels are doing to go green? The PHA collected reports from 74 member hotels on their green initiatives to create the Great Big Green Hotel Guide. Full of environmental best practices and case studies, the GBGHG showcases the way to sustainability. The guide was put together with the help of QUO and launched at yesterday’s forum.

Catch a glimpse of the Great Big Green Hotel Guide to see how Southeast Asia’s eco-conscious hotels are tackling hospitality’s biggest environmental issues.

Recap of Thailand Tourism Forum 2019

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.

QUO CEO to Hospitality Leaders: “Overthrow your org chart”

In the third article of a four-part series on innovation for Hotels Magazine, CEO David Keen expands upon what GMs need to do to be industry pioneers.

Even if we take the hotel out of hospitality, it remains a people-centred industry. Enlightened leaders share the vision that people drive this business. Even so, there’s a massive difference between being greeted by a baseball-capped, denim-shirted egalitarian millennial and being ushered in by an attendant wearing a three-piece suit and lapel pin.

Read the full article at HOTELS Magazine.

Opinion: We need to take the ‘hotels’ out of hospitality

The most successful brands today don’t play by the rules—they have the “guts” to change.

That was one of the key messages from our CEO David Keen in his THINC INNOVATE talk at The Anantara Siam, Bangkok—four years after he bemoaned hospitality’s lack of innovation at HICAP in 2014.

While we’ve seen more innovation in hospitality in the last four years than in the preceding 25, he said, today there are still very few examples of really visionary brands. Breakthroughs in vision, thinking and tech have augmented the way we buy things, watch things and even socialise, but the lion’s share of hotels were reluctant to get out of their comfort zones. A hotel stay in 2018 is fundamentally the same as it was 25 years ago.

Watch the speech here:

He drew parallels to the British Royal family, who last weekend signalled a readiness to embrace change, to move into the future. If even the lauded House of Windsor can change, Keen asked, what does that mean for the hospitality industry? “Has hospitality had its ‘Meghan’ moment, or are we still waiting?”

‘Lifestyle’ had held some promise. It had driven evolution in the hospitality sector, delegates heard, and as a result there are now hundreds of boutique brands offering ‘moments’, ‘experiences’ and ‘authenticity’. The lifestyle space is overcrowded with ‘cool’, design-savvy brands seeking to lure millennial travellers with ‘unique’ concepts. But they’re all starting to sound the same.

Meanwhile, Keen remarked, players outside the hospitality sector have gained ground. By blurring the lines between industries and economies, they’ve changed the way we think about and utilise space. The tech revolution has enabled the success of disruptors such as AirBnB, Amazon, Apple and Netflix, and created demand for collaborative workspaces. Visionaries like these are now hotels’ biggest threat.

“Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who look beyond (far beyond) the four walls of hotels to any kind of space,” Keen said. “It’s up to them to consider space for its economic value and reconstruct the perception of the four walls of their hotel.” He cited different opportunities both inside and outside of hotels where space can be utilised in a more economic way.

Keen added that some major players had already started on this journey, pointing to AccorHotels and Marriott. But there was still a long way to go. “How can hotels embrace change?” he asked.

  • Change your attitude
  • Drive your vision
  • Reimagine your organisation
  • Tech yourself up

To this final point, he suggested that hotels needed to stop focussing on the minutiae and, like the disruptors of the world, embrace technology as the backbone of everything they do. “It’s not about a website, it’s about creating an entire digital ecosystem to project your brand,” he said. “Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box!”

It’s time, he concluded, for hotels to start stretching their horizons, and thinking not just about the needs of customers today or tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow.

David Keen’s THINC Talk: The State of the ‘Brand Revolution’ took place at THINC INNOVATE, held at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel.

Contact for a full transcript and video of the talk.

The Democratisation of Luxury

Can you put a price on luxury? Is luxury relative? And is the notion of what constitutes luxury currently being transformed?

These questions formed part of a thought-provoking panel discussion at the Hotel Investment Conference South Asia (HICSA) 2018, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai on 4–5 April.

QUO CEO David Keen moderated the discussion on the ‘Democratisation of Luxury’ with panelists Dr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director of Bird Group; Rajiv Kaul, President of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts; Shafi Syed, Senior Vice President of Development at Caesars Entertainment; and Sonica Malhotra, Joint Managing Director of MBD Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts.

The panellists had different ideas about what luxury is and whether luxury has a dollar value, specifically in the context of a rapidly growing Indian hospitality market, but also internationally.

See what they had to say by watching the full panel discussion from HICSA below: