We sit down with Sho Hwee, director of sales & distribution– Singapore, Malaysia & The Maldives at Marriott International to discuss why she loves the business events industry, and what makes a successful leader.
What do you love about the business events industry?
Globally, and especially in Asia, the industry has grown so much over the years. The demand and significance of business events for our hotels cannot be ignored. The evolution of how we cater to events, and the many intricate elements that are involved, has kept me hooked! I am excited about the future of the industry and the growth that it fuels through our hotels and resorts.
What are the current challenges?
Today, the industry is challenged by the usual budget constraints and economic slowdown in certain markets. The era of digitalisation, where it only takes a few clicks for planners to easily shop and compare offers, has created a new dynamic opportunity to connect with the market.
While it is exciting and boundless, it also presents challenges for us to adapt to this new marketing channel. We have to take a creative approach, be lucid, responsive and visible to harness the potential of the digital space and social channels to execute our sales strategies.
Competition is getting stiffer as we see more hotels opening. The emergence of non-traditional venues in the market will also challenge us aggressively. As such, each of our distinctive brands need to differentiate in the expertise that we can provide to our delegates (in terms of service and facilities). In addition to that, we also increase and provide value to our loyal planners and delegates through our loyalty programmes – Marriott Rewards, SPG and Rewarding Events™.
How have you seen the events industry in Singapore and Malaysia evolve?
Both countries are seeing continuous success in the meetings and events industry. One perhaps more than the other as Singapore, now an international hub, is a mature market.
We are seeing more technology advancement to facilitate events, allowing for larger groups and the ability to drive more engagement with the delegates. Meetings and events are transformed through technological innovations via virtual reality, projection mapping, and live feeds. We’ve seen great results with our Marriott’s Meeting Services App, which gives planners the power to make requests at the touch of a button without ever leaving their seats. In addition to that, we now bring the same level of innovation to billing, making the entire process easier relieving the stress of time, space and language barriers.
Personal touch is still a must. Over the years, the customer experience has evolved with an increased emphasis on a more personalised experience for delegates. The demand for authenticity and first-of-its-kind experiences to connect with the destination saw our hotels offer more interactive experiences; incorporating local culture and cuisine to allow delegates to fully immerse themselves.
What are your tips to becoming a successful business leader in Southeast Asia?
The old adage, “love your job and you will not work a day in your life” holds true for me. Choose a career that you love and you will find hard work enjoyable and rewarding.
No doubt you will be faced with numerous challenges and heartaches in your career but as they say, ‘love conquers all’. Be cognisant that if you are in a job that you love, you will do well and when faced with challenges where you need help, never be afraid to ask for help. Surround yourself with people whose talents will complement yours.
What advice would you give young women seeking a career in this industry?
Be confident and stand up for what you believe is right. Be prepared to share with others and be humble to learn from them. You will be surprised at the many good friends that you will make.
Don’t be afraid to work hard. Build your foundation in every aspect – job knowledge, leadership skills, develop sound relationships with customers, business partners and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from it. As you grow, strive to be better each time.