Connecting Young Skålleagues virtually amidst COVID-19

By Swe Hao Yi

On the beautiful Saturday morning of June 6, Young Skål Asia kicked off the inaugural Young Skål Asia webinar hosted on Zoom that was broadcast live on Skål Asia Facebook page from 11:30 hours to 13:00 hours, India Standard Time. The primary purpose was to reach out to many Young Skålleagues and gain an insight on how they are coping during this delicate period. In addition, Young Skål Asia hopes to inject more positivity about the future and strengthen the importance of Young Skål in the hospitality industry.

Hosted by Shalini Charles – Director Young Skål Asia and moderated by Venkat Reddy – Director Young Skål India, the panel comprised seven Young Skålleagues from across Asia who shared their experiences and lessons learnt during this global pandemic period. The seven panellists consist of Emily Ho – Young Skål Macau who is passionate about hospitality and tourism, and currently heads the Marketing and Communication department at Crowne Plaza Macau as a Marketing Director; Benjamin Tabuteau – Young Skål Phuket who started his career at Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, and is now working for his family business in yachting and focusing on selling yacht charters; Megha Naidu – Young Skål Bangalore who is a highly enthusiastic professional singer currently serving the profound Accor Group of Hotels in the culinary department as a Management Trainee; Aman Farook – Young Skål Colombo who started working at Lanka Vacations as a Management Trainee, but has since been appointed as the Director of Planning and Operations; Dragon Chua – Young Skål Singapore who is now working at Royal Plaza on Scotts Singapore as a Guest Services Assistant Manager and is the President of Young Skål Singapore; Swe Hao Yi – Young Skål Singapore who holds a Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in tourism and hospitality business, and has worked in many different sectors across the hospitality industry, ranging from planning and operations in events, exhibitions, incentive travel to aviation; Noorul Huda Siddiqi – Young Skål Bahrain who is part of the air cargo and freight forwarding industry for more than eight years, and currently stationed in the Kingdom of Bahrain as a Senior Executive in Cargo Sales and Operations.

Many anecdotes shared were well received by the listeners and the highlights of the webinar are summarized as follows. Networking or the act of connecting with people effectively is essential to one’s success. Do not think of “networking” as “working”. Be yourself, have fun in the process and avoid bringing along too high of an expectation.

Technology has shifted to take on the center stage in the hospitality industry. Many businesses underwent a digital transformation to continue operating while adapting to the “new normal”. Companies are investing more in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and even artificial intelligence (AI) to interact virtually with customers, clients, and guests. Businesses in the food and beverage industry are shifting to online platforms, receiving orders through websites and online delivery systems, and rolling out contactless e-menus. Looking beyond the constant battle between high touch and high technology, the hospitality industry is now more receptive to the application of technology.

Safety and sanitation are also deemed more important, going beyond the previous norm of just clean linen and clean toilets. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable, businesses are also more flexible in their business models and shifting to new revenue sources by identifying opportunities among challenges.

Being part of the Skål community has given Young Skål members more confidence to overcome this pandemic. Having opened doors for many Young Skål members, Skål is a network of people and business among friends. Young Skål members have the opportunities to meet and connect with many veterans and industry experts, forging a friendship with people from all walks of life who provide guidance and support to them.

Despite the lockdown in many countries caused by COVID-19 and uncertainties in the hospitality industry, people generally love traveling and are looking forward to traveling after travel restrictions ease out. The panelists are positive about the future of tourism and the ever-changing hospitality landscape.

The successful webinar would not have been made possible without the strong support offered by many Skålleagues, namely Kamleshwaran – Secretary Skål International Chennai for providing technical assistance; Sanjay Datta – President Skål International Asia, Fabien Clerc – Vice President Skål International East Asia, Peter Morrison – President Skål International for gracing the webinar with their warm addresses; and Maria Teresa Diaz Comas – Senior Vice President Skål International for her encouraging message after attending the webinar.

A video recording of the Young Skål Asia webinar can be found Skål Asia Facebook page for viewing.

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