Two decades have now passed since Destination Asia was officially registered in late 1996 (October 22 for Destination Asia Vietnam and October 24 for Destination Asia Thailand). The first “seed” of this inception came to me in mid-1996 when I was the managing director of Tour East for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma… based in Bangkok.
I remember the exact day: the 18th of September (a Wednesday) in 1996 on the ninth month of the year… an auspicious date. I was in the lobby of the Shangri-la Bangkok (where I was previously an executive between 1985-89 and also on its opening team) gazing across the Chao Prya River.
I realised there was a huge void in the inbound DMC business in Asia; nobody had yet established a pan-Asia DMC. Some of our competitors had a presence in Indochina only, but nobody had yet ventured into a “real pan-Asia” DMC travel company.
It was on that date (September 18, 1996) that I knew the future was for an inbound DMC spanning Japan and China in the north, to Indonesia in the south and from Burma in the west to Vietnam and Hong Kong in the east. Nobody had a DMC like “my dream”, and from that auspicious date I knew what my destiny was – to create a DMC across all of the Far East.
Addie Hirunkate was the general manager of Tour East Thailand, and the first person I briefed on “my dream”. After I finished my “vision of the future”, Addie repled, “Jim, let’s do it, and I’ll set up offices in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya with Khun Yoot [Addie’s husband]”.
‘Three legs’ of MICE
I then approached Nicole Naylor who was my Tour East general manager in Saigon (a rough posting in those days). Nicole also saw the huge opportunities for a “real pan-Asia inbound DMC” and came on-board right away. Paul Levrier joined Destination Asia three weeks later and to this day remains as managing director of Destination Asia Vietnam.
People look today at the size of Destination Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Burma, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos. And our “world-best” ISO network with international sales offices in New York City, London, Minneapolis, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Auckland, Copenhagen and Dusseldorf. Another strength is our “three legs” of MICE: tour wholesalers, leisure and cruise liners.
People wonder in awe and ask me: “Jim, how did you do this? What was the key to success?” It was actually quite simple…
- Set your Vision for the Future;
- Develop precise Business Plans and models
- Never ‘waver’ and…
- By far the most important asset: hire the absolute best, most professional staff in each country.
I am very proud of “the Family of Destination Asia“, and everything we have achieved.
James Reed is CEO of Destination Asia Group