HALL OF FAME 2018

“Next Gen leaders were inducted alongside veterans in the industry in WiT’s Hall of Fame that was introduced last year to recognise and honour individuals and companies who have had the greatest influence on the progress and professionalism of the digital travel industry in Asia Pacific. This year, we are honouring a couple of Next Gen leaders to recognise the new wave of pioneers changing digital travel in our region. As part of our vision and mission to widen and deepen our community, we want to single out these two whom we feel will lead us into making travel better,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder and managing director of WiT.

 

The following are the 2018 WiT Hall of Fame inductees and their citations.

Next Gen: Ferry Unardi, CEO & Co-founder, Traveloka

Urban legend has it that when Ferry Unardi first shared the idea of Traveloka, Indonesia’s first OTA, with investors, he was told he should start with a meta-search model. But the computer science & engineering graduate stuck to his guns, dropped out of Harvard and launched Traveloka in 2012 at the age of 23.

 

In six years he and his co-founders have built up South-east Asia’s first travel unicorn – raising the hopes and igniting the excitement of a new generation of young entrepreneurs in Indonesia and South-east Asia. His aggressive expansion, relentless execution and boldness to take on competitors and defy critics have earned him both bouquets and brickbats. Today, Traveloka is the first Indonesian travel brand to have scaled across South-east Asia with major presence in six cities across the region.

Next Gen: Eric Gnock Fah & Ethan Lin, co-founders, Klook

When Eric Gnock Fah and Ethan Lin stood on the WiT Japan stage to pitch their idea of Klook in 2015, and won, few people imagined that in less than three years they would become the fastest-growing startup in the tours & activities sector as well as the most-funded – US$300 million in under three years.

 

The two partners, former bankers with no travel experience, have executed fearlessly to build a travel business for a new generation of travellers, social, mobile and experience-seeking. Learning as they went along, they have proven critics wrong and today they stand ready to take Klook global, the first Asia-grown independent travel brand to spread its wings beyond Asia.

Loh Lik Peng, Founder, Unlisted Collection

Loh Lik Ping is a pioneer in the hospitality sector, combining design, food and local experiences (before it became a fashionable word) for a new generation of travellers. He started the “boutique hotel” trend in Singapore by converting an old shophouse in the red light district of Chinatown. He’s demonstrated a knack for identifying up-and-coming neighbourhoods in non-tourist zones and converting heritage buildings into hospitality and lifestyle spaces with a difference – for example, the Town Hall in London’s East End and Old Clare Hotel in Sydney, Australia as well as in Shanghai and Dublin.

 

His Unlisted Collection also includes 20 top-class restaurants in major culinary capitals. He’s taken a Singapore idea and brand abroad, proving that, when it comes to travel, lifestyle and local experiences, there are no boundaries. His Collection’s use of digital and social media has also differentiated the group and his constant evolution as an entrepreneur now sees him reimagining a new kind of space in hospitality and community with the conversion of the New Majestic Hotel into the Straits Clan.

Singapore Tourism Board

The Singapore Tourism Board, through its own digital transformation and progressive marketing strategy, has played an active role in the championing of online travel. Its grants to encourage the use of technology, its training programmes to empower the trade with the right tools and skills set, its set up of the Tourism & Services Hub to organise and streamline the use of data to better deliver on customer experiences are some of the initiatives it’s introduced to transform Singapore into a destination for the digital age.

 

Above all, its branding campaign, “Passion Made Possible” launched August 2017 is a breakthrough. It is the first unified branding for Singapore Inc. and combines digital and real-life to create a powerful new narrative, one told through its people, stories and experiences. It’s a bold attempt to break away from destination stereotypes and bringing a place to life in a way that connects travellers with local communities.

Rod Cuthbert, founder, Viator

At a time when no one was thinking tours & activities, Rod Cuthbert started Viator in 1995. He diligently and patiently built it up, and its sale to TripAdvisor in 2014 was the spark that lit the fire under the tours & activities sector.

 

Today it is the hottest sector in online travel, attracting investments and acquisitions, and Cuthbert is the pioneer who blazed the trail for others to follow. He then took on the chairman’s role at Rome2rio, the first multi-modal search, mentoring and guiding the Melbourne-based startup to global expansion. Through his active involvement and mentoring of young startups at WiT conferences, he’s played a key role in the development of online travel in APAC.

Jenny Wu, Managing Partner, Baidu Capital

In her previous role as chief financial officer and chief strategy officer of Ctrip, from 2011 to 2016, Jenny Wu played a critical role in the group’s expansion within and beyond China, elevating the profile of online travel within China as well as China’s status in the global market. She spearheaded more than 30 acquisitions and investment deals and managed post-investment affairs, including Tujia, China’s largest homestay network, India’s largest online travel company MakeMyTrip, and a portfolio covering both platforms or technology companies in the online and offline sectors.

 

In November 2016, she joined Baidu Capital as managing partner and armed with a $3 billion fund, which includes a dedicated travel fund in partnership with Ctrip, remains an influential figure in China’s Internet economy as well as China’s investment profile in global markets. Despite her hectic schedule, Wu always finds time to mentor young entrepreneurs.

Adrian Currie, Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Booking Holdings

With a background in corporate finance and audit, Adrian Currie came into the Priceline Group fold through the acquisition of Active Hotels and became CFO of the group, later taking on a strategic and leading role chairing its acquired companies – Agoda, Rocket Miles, rentalcars.com– as well as spearheading corporate development.

 

In his 14 years at Booking Holdings, he’s played a key and influential role in the development of the online travel space in APAC, using his position to make a difference to the industry. He’s played an active part in WiT’s Startup Pitch programme since the beginning, judging, mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs and professionals in our region. From his base in New Zealand, he remains an influential figure in the evolution of APAC’s travel industry