BY MARK SIMMONS — The inaugural 2014 Outrigger Asia Pacific Leadership Conference kicked off on Tuesday evening, September 9th, in spectacular fashion with a welcome reception at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. Attendees from across the company were introduced to the unique culture of Thailand through traditional Thai costume, handcrafts, live cooking stations and even a fire dance show. Great food was a constant theme throughout the conference week.
Managing Director for Asia Pacific Darren Edmonstone opened the event with a powerful video highlighting why Asia is the place to be for business growth. The beginning of the first day touched on projects, design and development, and food and beverage. A key focus for the morning session was the new brand launch and that we now have a solid global sales, marketing and distribution structure in place to support our growth. Before lunch, many of the APAC resorts were highlighted in the Market Metrix results presented by Charlene Goo.
Throughout the two days, all of the Outrigger resorts highlighted their Sense of Place through informative and colorful presentations. We learned about a Fijian Chief’s retreat, the history of the dodo, and ANR’s mascot “Jack.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “Good to Great” and to set the stage for the afternoon sessions, Mr. Giovanni Angelini, former CEO and managing director for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, was the luncheon guest speaker. He stressed that on the journey from Good to Great, companies must establish metrics and consistently measure their progress in key areas such as people, sales and marketing, finance, guest satisfaction and expectations. William Visser, VP operations, continued with the Good to Great theme in the afternoon by highlighting how other companies like Southwest and Singapore Airlines made the move from Good to Great. After a long, but informative day, participants had the evening at their leisure to enjoy the sights of Phuket.
Spread over the two days, Albert Chan led several workshops on the Customer Journey, Making Activities an Outrigger Pillar and How About the Kids. The workgroups discussed how we can positively impact the guest experience in these key areas and discussions generated great ideas for the GMs to implement.
The morning of day two continued with more functional directions from Human Resources and Legal. I led the afternoon sessions and highlighted the various sales and marketing strategies for 2014-2015, OTA direction, worldwide distribution, update on the OPERA project, revenue management, social media and PR. Participants were also given a visual reminder that what is posted on the Internet is “FOREVER!”
On the evening of day two, participants were treated to a special dinner at the Blue Elephant Restaurant set in an historic 100-year-old home. Present in more than 30 countries, The Blue Elephant Group is regarded as the ambassador of Thai culinary excellence. They are renowned for their focus on delivering quality food and that evening’s meal did not disappoint. No one went home hungry.
The final day of the conference was the team building and community service project. After a quick energizer session, participants were transported to one of the local Phuket schools where the Outrigger team helped with various renovation projects around the school grounds. Shelves were built and the library redecorated. Gardens were weeded and replanted. Lunch tables were sanded and stained. Even the toilet areas were given a new coat of paint. After the hard work, the team enjoyed hosting a games event for the kids rewarding them with prizes and candy. On behalf of Outrigger Resorts, David Carey and Darren Edmonstone presented the school with a donation of DVD players, educational CDs, books and other learning material for the children. Many of the participants said this was the highlight of the week.
The closing event was a relaxing barbecue dinner and entertainment, “Good to Great” The Outrigger Way at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort and Villas. Great food, great music and great prize giveaways were enjoyed by all.