It’s been almost 10 years since I headed down south to join the 2013 January intake at QRC. Lake Wakatipu was sparkling almost every day under blue skies that summer and Flume was playing non-stop since the debut of his studio album a couple of months prior. Late afternoons by the lake gave way to bar hopping in the evenings and the eventual negotiation of a $10 cab up Fernhill. Rachel Exell was chaotically firing questions at us in preparation of internship interviews (if you were a fruit what would you be??), while Dan & Mitzi at the QRC Lodge were trying to track down who torpedoed through a window at 3am.
It’s a bit strange to look back on a decade because it only seems like a few years ago since our 30-strong cohort met in Queenstown for the first time and became a strong group of friends over the years that followed. After finishing up in Queenstown I headed home to Hawke’s Bay to save some money in order to complete my studies in Switzerland.
I worked for a year at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, before heading to IHTTI, a hotel school formerly located in Neuchâtel, around an hour from Geneva. It had been my long-term goal to get a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management and I was able to jump straight into the third year of study at IHTTI thanks to my studies at QRC. I spent just over a year in Neuchâtel, a very Swiss town that was positioned on a lake just like Queenstown.
There were 30+ nationalities in my intake, which made for some interesting group assignments/arguments and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Instead of the traditional dissertation after our year of study, we were able to work on an integrated project, which was centred around the refurbishment, branding, design and launch of a new hotel in Los Angeles. I spent the summer of 2016 up in Copenhagen finishing this integrated project whilst applying for a few hundred jobs around the world. I wasn’t too concerned about where I ended up, but I was set on working within hotel marketing. Finally, after many failed attempts, I was successful in getting an interview with a Sofitel resort in Cambodia. I remember trying to type on my keyboard very quietly during the interview as I tried to conduct some Google research on this country that I really knew nothing about. I was lucky enough to get the internship so I farewelled Europe and headed into Asia in July 2016. I spent almost a year in Siem Reap, home to the magnificent Angkor temples and some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.
Cambodia really has something magical and I continue to feel energized whenever I return. In early 2017 I moved across to Phnom Penh to take on the role of Marketing Manager for our two Sofitel hotels in Cambodia. I spent a couple of years in the small yet chaotic capital, learning a lot about grit in what was a very challenging role. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an incredible group of people who brought so much colour to my life in this magnificent country.
At the start of 2019 I was offered a role at Accor’s corporate office in Bangkok, working within the communications division. This was a really interesting experience because I knew about the challenges that our teams at a hotel level encountered, and it was thus easier to create and propose solutions. The corporate communications division is a really interesting part of every hotel group – it involves media relations, hotel support, crisis management and basically anything that builds or impacts the reputation of the group. Corporate communications is behind any topic that you see from a hotel group because they are the ones preparing messaging for executives, crafting storytelling for press announcements, or proposing quotes to journalists. I am very grateful to have been able to work for a year in normal times before COVID-19 hit in Q1, 2020.
The pandemic was obviously a very challenging period and required resilience from everyone working within this industry. Unfortunately I lost many great colleagues during this period and we had a number of hotels across the region with suspended operations. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my mentors who continued to encourage me and push me to grow – I moved into my current role of Communications Director for Accor in July 2021 and today I am taking care of our communications division for Southeast Asia which comprises of 370+ hotels.
My favourite part of this role is the wonderful people that I get to meet – our region spans from Japan right down to Indonesia so there is a wonderful array of cultures represented amongst our talents at corporate offices and hotels. My team is responsible for building awareness for Accor and our hotels – we are bringing new brands into some of our countries and expanding at a rapid pace so we are very agile.
Every week is varied – I might be working on PR projects from our office in Bangkok or out in the region visiting hotels, usually with journalists for destination showcases or press events with our executive leaders. I think Asia is a wonderful place because of the opportunity here.
There are many misconceptions about the region but the reality is that no two countries or cities are the same so all stereotypes are certainly redundant. There is an incredible amount of diversity which is very energizing and brings so much colour to my life. I am very grateful to have begun my journey at QRC with some great lessons and lifelong friendships forged.