Events Travel Asia Group CEO Max Boontawee Jantasuwan says putting an emphasis on people, rather than trend reports and processes, helped to sharpen his business focus.
Not many business owners will acknowledge that trend reports can induce a certain level of fear — especially for SME owners like myself. While the validity of industry trend reports for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is debatable (many reports tend to be America- or Europe-centric), they nonetheless make us aware of global business and behavioural shifts that we must prepare for — even when we may not have time enough to cope with changes taking place at home.
There is much talk of late about the power of disruptive technology to transform the way we plan and execute events. Some thought leaders have even predicted the death of DMCs and CVBs by 2050 (a bold prediction made at the Singapore MICE Forum in 2017). All this got me thinking: What price do I have to pay to remain valid in the business events industry? Will artificial intelligence and new technologies enhance or replace my business?
Instead of worrying about business development and being overly focused on our day-to-day operations, I decided to invest in a couple of things: Spending more time with loyal supporters (customers and industry friends) who I can rely on to share accurate, truthful reports on the current state of play, and taking time away to really reflect on my business and its future.
Industry peers across the APAC region have cited a number of common challenges — like lack of trust in technology (cyber security), increased regional competition, and confusion caused by overzealous marketing campaigns that, too often, over promise and under deliver. Of course, as a company owner, I would ensure that our marketing messages present the best brand image at all times. However, I also understand that customers need honesty before they trust us.
I tucked those comments at the back of mind during a recent trip to Bhutan, where I spent many hours thinking. Like many, I was inspired by the destination and its people. Bhutan’s beautiful landscapes brought me a sense of peace and the hospitality gave me the reassurance to continue to invest in myself and my business, and to sharpen my focus on people, rather than processes.
As much as our industry should embrace technological advancement, our focus must remain on servicing customers. We must work with our partners and provide effective service in order to remain valid. This human-to-human hospitality will ensure our survival.
That said, we must also make room for ongoing reinvention, not just to meet the ever-changing needs of customers, but to ensure we can work alongside technology and not against it. Most importantly, we must continue to communicate the value that we provide to clients. We are worth it.
Max Boontawee Jantasuwan is founding CEO of Events Travel Asia Group, headquartered in Bangkok.