The most sought after skills in the hospitality industry include having the right attitude, learning constantly, and having an open mind. This was one of the key takeaways from the Future Leaders 2018 track at ITB Asia on 19 October.

Now in its eleventh year in Singapore, ITB Asia took place at Marina Bay Sands on 17-19 October 2018. It is organised by Messe Berlin (Singapore) and supported by the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau.

Human Resources is glad to be the media partner for the Future Leaders 2018 track which focuses on cultivating the future talent of the travel and tourism industry in Singapore by providing a platform for them to connect with top leaders in the industry.

The stream kicked off with mentoring sessions by two industry veterans, Stewart Fu, director of learning, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore; and Ian Wilson, senior vice president of non-gaming operations, Marina Bay Sands.

Fu started by sharing how he developed his career and what constitutes the right attitude with key advice, such as:

  • Going above and beyond starts from wanting to do more than what you need to do.
  • Different organisations have different cultures and that shapes how the individual thinks – absorb the positive values!
  • Set a big goal and add in small goals along the way.
  • Never settle. Always challenge yourself by asking if there is a better way to do things.
Stewart Fu, director of learning, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore Stewart Fu, director of learning, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

He was followed by Wilson who emphasised the importance of constant learning.

Sharing the realities of today’s ever changing world, he noted that apart from the rapidly ageing workforce “technologically speaking, big data, AI, robotics, and more are changing the industry.”

Wilson borrowed an analogy from two MIT professors. Telling a story of a chessboard, a king, and a commoner, he illustrated how exponential growth of tech is progressing today in line with Moore’s law, saying: “If you look as Moore's law and computing, we are at the back end of the chess board. The back end is two billion times bigger than the front end.”

In that line, he concluded: “There is no standing still. Think of it as if you are walking up a downward escalator. If you stop, everything will move past you. So never stop learning. As the saying goes, ‘if you stop for lunch, you are lunch’. Today, if you stop, it's going to be less forgiving than ever before.”

Ian Wilson, senior vice president of non-gaming operations, Marina Bay Sands Ian Wilson, senior vice president of non-gaming operations, Marina Bay Sands

A fireside chat followed the mentoring sessions, where Sulbi Lee, general manager of M Social Singapore, and Zak Muysken, director of guest services, Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay took questions around climbing the hospitality ladder.

Moderated by one among the aspirant talent pool, Lee Yan Xuan, fresh graduate, Bachelor (Hons) Hospitality Business, Singapore Institute of Technology, the session explored the two leaders’ career path, from how they got into the hospitality industry to what they learnt along the way.

Sharing what works helps him coping with tough times on the job, Muysken said: “Sometimes a walk around the block helps. I look at it and cut it up into blocks and think about it pragmatically.”

As for Lee, her coping mechanism in managing the Hotel involves detaching from the situation by doing something you enjoy outside of your work and give some space in your head.

Please browse though the gallery of photos below:

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Following the conversation was an interactive panel discussion, featuring the following panelists lending their expertise to the topic of ‘envisioning the future of young talent’ (from L-R):

  • Moderator: Wimintra Jangnin, editor in chief, Hotelintel.Co
  • Darren Ware, general manager, Carlton City Hotel Singapore
  • Lavinia Rajaram, regional head of communications (Asia), Brand Expedia
  • Ng Gian Heng, director of human resources, Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay
  • Merle Chen, chief talent officer, The Lo & Behold Group


When it comes to the skills needed, interestingly, being tech savvy alone will not give future talent a large advantage.

Ware noted that being tech savvy is only an advantage “if and only if, the end in mind is to improve the guest experience.”

To Ng, it’s more about having an open mind. He explains: “Tech is changing so quickly, having the open mind is better.”

While Chen acknowledges the rapid advancements in technology and the myriad of tools and applications available to improve various touchpoints of the overall guest experience and journey, the question remains as to where technology is deployed along the journey and process.

She added “In deciding where best to deploy, one should consider the points in the journey where the human interaction brings the greatest value to the guest experience”.

As for Rajaram, she felt "having basic technical knowledge and skills can help a great deal."

She explained: "In this day and age, it's so easy to have access to free online learning tools. Make the time and seize the opportunity to self-learn."

Rather than tech savviness, she pointed out that being very curious and coming out of your comfort zone is a more important trait, as it leads to further learning.

In line with that, when asked about the one skill needed today, Chen said: “Ability to respectfully question assumptions; having curiosity around the ‘why’ – which is a pre-requisite for innovation and coming up with solutions.  It is both a skill and mindset that we should have regardless of technology.”

Apart from that, the skills the panelists found important for today’s hospitality talent included:

  • Switching off and learning to embrace and enjoy life
  • Being adaptable
  • The ability to hold conversations and maintain the human touch
  • Managing stakeholders and understanding the industry
Concluding the discussion, Chen said: “We look for passion and resilience. You may have the passion to start and ikigai - alignment of passion with your mission, vocation and profession, but you will need a strong sense of resilience to sustain your passion  and see things through when the going gets tough.”

Please browse though the gallery of photos below:

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The eventful day was wrapped up with a breakout and networking session which put tomorrow’s talent in contact with today’s leaders.