Cave hero to speak at SEAHIS

South East Asia Hotel Investors’ Summit to hear talk on resilience from caver Vern Unsworth who helped save the lives of 13 football club members in Thailand

VERN UNSWORTH whose expertise helped saved the lives of a junior football team trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand has been lined up to speak at the South East Asia Hotel Investors’ Summit.

Vern Unsworth

The cave explorer was called to the scene at Tham Luang, Chiang Rai province, when 12 youngsters and an assistant coach became trapped after they sought shelter from rains two years ago. His efforts and knowledge of the caves were widely praised internationally as heroic in saving the boys from drowning.

Unsworth will speak on the topic of resilience in adversity as the travel and hospitality industry across the region respond to the threat of Covid and the “worst year in living memory for the hotel sector”.

The fourth edition of South East Asia Hotel Investors’ Summit (SEAHIS), due to take place at Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit, December 1-2, is billed as the only hotel investment summit to be held in a physical format this year.

“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, but it has also been heartwarming to see how people have adapted to the situation and stayed positive,” Unsworth, who lives in Chiang Rai, said.

“Often the most important battle is the one that takes place inside ourselves; having the right mental attitude can help us to adapt and survive in any environment. Events like SEAHIS help to broaden our outlook and let us understand that, by taking small and simple steps, we can overcome anything.”

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Senior executives from almost every major Thailand-based hotel group will be addressing the event while more than 30 other speakers from around the region will attend remotely, says a spokesman for SEAHIS 2020.

Issues affecting the hotel industry, including the supply-demand balance, the changing role of OTAs, the balance of power between hotel managers, franchisors and owners, sustainability, and the best vehicles for owning hotels – funds, families or public companies – are on the agenda.

Much of the content will be underpinned by the impact of the global pandemic. Related topics will include cost reduction strategies, opportunities for acquisitions in a downturn, design changes to respond to the “new normal”, and how resorts will be sold to guests in the post-Covid, post-Thomas Cook era.

Experts addressing these issues include:
Bill Bensley, founder of architecture and design studio, Bensley;
Suchad Chiaranussati, CEO of SC Capital;
Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor International;
Stephan Vanden Auweele, CEO of Asset World Corporation (TCC);
Dirk de Cuyper, CEO of S Hotels and Resorts;
James Riley, CEO of Mandarin Oriental;
Rajeev Menon, president – Asia Pacific, Marriott;
Andrew Langdon, SVP of Development – Asia at Accor;
Deepak Ohri, CEO of Lebua.

In total, 50 of the speakers are company owners, CEOs or other C-suite officers. The deputy governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tanes Petsuwan, will also address the event.

Simon Allison, chairman of hotel owners’ alliance HOFTEL which organises SEAHIS, said: “This has been the worst year in living memory for the hotel sector, so there is plenty to talk about. Most Covid topics have been discussed to exhaustion so, at SEAHIS, Covid will be like the fish sauce in Thai cooking – ever-present in the background but not the overriding flavour.

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“We hope to look beyond this pandemic to see how the industry will emerge and how the long-term issues will evolve.”

“Every year at SEAHIS, well over 40 per cent of attendees are from groups which own or develop hospitality real estate. Everything the hospitality industry does is ultimately funded by the owners and developers of hotels, resorts and serviced apartments. They are under immense pressure at the moment and are looking for insights as to how to adapt, survive and then thrive. SEAHIS will provide exactly that,” Allison said.

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