Thailand’s Path To Responsible Tourism

Promthep Cape in Phuket

Thailand’s tourism sector is making a steady comeback, having welcomed over 15 million tourists between January and July 2023. The total revenue from tourism reached 1.08 trillion baht (US$29.38 billion), with international visitors contributing 638.16 million baht (US$17.37 million). This resurgence is primarily driven by tourists from Malaysia, China, South Korea, India and Russia.

To further bolster tourism, various initiatives have been implemented this year, including a temporary visa-free program for select target markets, a focus on promoting lesser-known cities in Thailand and an emphasis on longer stays.

Leading the charge in these efforts is Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Under the stewardship of its new governor, Thapanee Kiatphaibool, who officially assumed office on September 1, TAT has set ambitious goals. It aims to generate 1.92 trillion baht (US$52.92 billion) from 35 million foreign tourists and an additional 1.08 trillion baht (US$29.38 billion) from 200 million domestic trips in 2024.

“Under my tenure,” says Kiatphaibool, “TAT will focus on creating and delivering meaningful experiences tailored to meet the diverse demands of discerning travelers.” The sector is shifting its attention from quantity to quality, both in terms of its target audience and the offerings it provides.

Leading Reopening Efforts 

Kiatphaibool played a pivotal role in Thailand’s post-Covid-19 reopening efforts. For example, she initiated the Special Tourist Visa (STV) scheme, which paved the way for subsequent entry programs such as Villa Quarantine, Yacht Quarantine, Golf Quarantine and the Phuket Sandbox, regarded internationally as a model for the country’s reopening.

She was also recognized for her leadership in initiating the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certification program that enabled hotels and services to meet specific health and safety standards. The program subsequently became mandatory for hotels seeking registration as quarantine facilities during the period of stringent Covid-19 control measures.

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand

Building Strength From Within

Having been with TAT since 1999, Kiatphaibool has observed the evolution of Thailand’s tourism sector over the years. She says, “The sector now places a strong emphasis on building strength from within—uplifting and supporting local businesses and communities.” 

“Furthermore,” she adds, “there’s a growing commitment to the management of tourist attractions and destinations to ensure the preservation and conservation of our natural resources. Today, many attractions limit daily visitor numbers to align with their carrying capacity, and national parks are periodically closed to allow nature time to recover.”

For instance, Maya Bay, which gained international fame through the Hollywood film The Beach, was closed for nearly four years due to overtourism, resulting in the destruction of coral reefs and its marine ecosystem. Since the park reopened in 2022, it has capped tourist numbers to about 4,000 a day and swimming in the bay is no longer allowed.

Other attractions such as the Thi Lo Su Waterfall in Tak’s Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary will take advantage of the monsoon season from July to August each year to close, providing the ecosystem with an opportunity to heal.

Chiang Khan Walking Street in Loei Province

Shaping the Future of Tourism

During Kiatphaibool’s four-year term as governor, she will implement a strategic vision called PASS to shape Thailand’s tourism future. The strategy focuses on these four priorities:

P: Partnership 360—Foster collaboration with industry partners to enhance Thailand’s appeal to international and domestic travelers.
A: Accelerate Digital Access—Utilize innovation and technology for sustainable tourism growth, including leveraging digital content and virtual influencers to lure Generation Y and Z travelers.
S: Subculture Movement—Target influential subculture groups to drive impactful travel trends through online platforms.
S: Sustainably Now—Promote sustainability through the Sustainable Tourism Goals (STGs), aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, featuring the STAR (Sustainable Tourism Acceleration Rating) system to certify businesses for sustainability.

Organic agriculture project in Sukhothai

Additionally, the Thai government’s Bio-Circular Green economy (BCG) model has found its way into various tourism segments, including health and wellness, responsible tourism and gastronomy. For instance, TAT partnered with the Thai Organic Consumer Association to establish a marketplace that connects farmers directly with mid-stream consumers, including hotels and restaurants that serve downstream consumers and tourists.

This not only reduces carbon emissions but also expands the benefits of the circular economy. Initially launched in Phuket, the project has since expanded throughout Thailand.

Local products made from native Papyrus trees in Chanthaburi

Balancing Tourism and Environmental Goals

Indeed, TAT has undertaken a commendable effort in advancing the cause of sustainable tourism throughout the country, spanning both its major and secondary cities. This endeavor stands as a pivotal force in the revitalization of Thailand’s tourism sector.

Kiatphaibool states, “Sustainability principles encompass environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development. Striking a harmonious balance among these three aspects is paramount for ensuring the long-term viability of tourism. Yet, the pursuit of sustainability in tourism must not compromise the overall satisfaction of tourists, but rather should enrich their experiences by fostering a heightened awareness of sustainability issues.”

Rock climbing at Railay Beach, Krabi

Notably, TAT has recently introduced 20 low-carbon routes across the country with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the ecological footprint. The success story of Koh Mak, recognized as Thailand’s first low-carbon destination, serves as an exemplary model for promoting responsible and sustainable tourism practices. Nestled within the pristine expanse of Trat province, Koh Mak has preserved its idyllic charm by embracing development practices that have minimal impact on the environment and local community. Visitors to the island are actively encouraged to engage in activities that minimize their carbon footprint and support local businesses.

Ultimately, the balance between tourism and environmental stewardship remains a paramount goal, and Thailand, through TAT, is leading the way toward a more sustainable and enriching travel experience for all.

Expanding Beyond Connectivity

Khairul Liza Ibrahim, Executive Vice President of TM Global

The global telecommunications landscape has been in a state of transition for the last decade. Once primarily associated with facilitating domestic and international connections, they now play pivotal roles in shaping our interconnected world, offering a myriad of services that encompass more than just bandwidth for voice and data.

TM Global, the wholesale business arm of Malaysia’s telecommunications company, TM, has long recognized this trend and has broadened its horizons in the last few years to become an integrated player in digital innovation and advanced connectivity. This has led the company to develop a comprehensive range of cutting-edge wholesale communications services and solutions for a global market.

“While maintaining and growing our connectivity infrastructure remains our core focus, we are centered on creating value for our stakeholders by developing new innovations. We also embarked into a new age of wholesale business where we expand our offerings toward enabling the diversification of edge and platform play services in supporting hyperscalers
and digital players for greater customer experience,” says Khairul Liza Ibrahim, Executive Vice President of TM Global.

TM Global’s transformational journey involved the company venturing into a holistic and comprehensive assessment of its current businesses. This included conducting due diligence exercises aimed at determining where the targeted business opportunities lay.

Concurrently, the company ensured it augmented desirable skill sets, particularly in new business ventures, so that it was able to understand and address customers’ needs effectively.

The company began focusing on how market conditions were evolving in the digital space and ensured that it remained up-to-date with the latest technologies so that it could accelerate the development of new digital solutions. Realizing no one company can do it all, it also fortified its market position by expanding its partnership ecosystems while providing mutual benefits to all parties involved.

A Trusted Wholesale Provider 

TM Global’s advanced connectivity and digital infrastructure solutions include a vast fiber cable network, submarine cable systems, points-of-presence, content delivery networks, TM Internet Exchange, Edge Facility, data centers, as well as its regional of fices worldwide to support these services.

Recognizing that gaming will largely benefit from edge and 5G technology, with APAC as the world’s largest gaming hub, TM Global has delivered a broader range of edge services that can be tailored to each vertical’s needs for low-latency and high-bandwidth utilization. The ultimate goal is to further strengthen its position through innovative approaches that foster exceptional customer experience, maximize cost-effectiveness, and drive profitability for its customers. 

“While maintaining and growing our connectivity infrastructure remains
our core focus, we are centered on creating value for our stakeholders by
developing new innovations.”

Khairul Liza Ibrahim

In Malaysia, TM Global will continue to play the role of the trusted wholesale infrastructure provider by driving the digital industry and 5G ecosystems through nationwide infrastructure deployment. Internationally, TM Global remains focused on positioning itself as the preferred digital hub for ASEAN via strategic collaborations with hyperscalers and global service providers.

“We are continually on the lookout for cutting-edge platform solutions that enable various type of applications, such as multiaccess edge computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and many more that will lead to our next phase of growth. This is parallel to market needs while enhancing the customer experience for all our stakeholders,” says Khairul Liza.

A Successful Energy Transition Begins With The Right Partner

Yaoyu Zhang, Global Head of LNG and New Energies, PetroChina International

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of PetroChina Company Ltd, PetroChina International (PCI) is the main supplier of gas to China. In 2022, PCI imported more than 80 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, which accounts for approximately 60% of the total gas import to China. It also reliably delivered 10 million tons per annum (MTPA) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its global customers.

“Ensuring security of supply is at the heart of what PCI does,” says Yaoyu Zhang, Global Head of LNG and New Energies at PCI. “Our global reputation has been built on the core value of honoring long-term relationships and contracts over short-term gains.”

PCI is committed to working with its partners through driving deep process simplification, utilizing automation and digital solutions and making its operating platform efficient and effective. It also continues to foster a culture of inclusiveness while investing in respectful business partnerships and focusing on customers’ needs.

In its journey to become a major player in the energy market, Yaoyu says having the right partner is one of its key success factors. This is where PETRONAS and its customer-centric solutions have played a key role in supporting the continued growth of PCI.

“Any attempt to address the energy challenges would require a global and multilateral approach. PETRONAS’ ability to innovate and its customer focused leadership are key in ensuring a sustainable and economic supply of LNG to PCI and our domestic and international customers.”

Yaoyu Zhang, Global Head of LNG and New Energies, PetroChina International

“PETRONAS has been operating in the Chinese market since 2009, providing energy for China’s rapid economic development. China’s natural gas demand is expected to grow, with a potential of reaching 550 to 600 bcm per annum by 2030, and this bodes well for our partnership,” Yaoyu says.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Today, PETRONAS is one of China’s largest LNG suppliers and one of the most recognizable brands in the gas market. In 2022, PETRONAS delivered 7.5 million tons of LNG to China, accounting for around 10% of the total LNG exports to China.

Building on their strong and stable relationship, PCI and PETRONAS collaborated closely under the Joint Commercial Committee, which extends the success of their spot trading partnership. This has led to the signing of a long-term LNG sales and purchase agreement, which will see PETRONAS delivering LNG to PCI well past 2030.

“In 2021, China imported close to 80 million tonnes of LNG, becoming the largest importer in the world. We expect LNG to continue to play a vital role in ensuring China’s energy security and economic stability,” says Yaoyu.

Despite the growing importance of LNG, the market has experienced some price volatilities and supply uncertainties in recent years, posing a threat to the recovery of both the Chinese and global economies.

Undeterred by the challenges of restricted travel during the pandemic, PCI was able to ensure that its entire LNG supply chain was uninterrupted, averting the risk of a major supply shock for both China and the global market.

Vessel berthing at Singapore Universal Storage

PCI also faced another challenge: it had insufficient capacity in its LNG terminal to fulfill annual contractual quantities and meet downstream gas demand in one of China’s southern provinces.

“PETRONAS’ commercial team identified a customized LNG vessel that would seamlessly fit our terminal requirements, and our operations team worked together to ensure the compatibility of the vessel,” says Yaoyu.

“Any attempt to address the energy challenges would require a global and multilateral approach. PETRONAS’ ability to innovate and its customer-focused leadership are key in ensuring a sustainable and economic supply of LNG to PCI and our domestic and international customers,” he adds.

International trading team in PCI America’s office

Gearing Up for the Future

As one of the world’s largest energy providers, PCI has transformed its portfolio with the supply of lower carbon energy sources such as natural gas, biofuel and green power, while working with its customers across different sectors to decarbonize their use of energy.

PCI has also built a world-class carbon portfolio that helps its global customers offset emissions. Since 2021, PCI has delivered more than 10 carbon-neutral LNG cargoes, making it one of the top carbon-neutral LNG suppliers globally.

PCI and PETRONAS, however, are not taking anything for granted and are forging deeper ties with the aim of addressing market challenges and contributing to the world’s sustainable energy solutions.

In the last few years, the increased fragility and interdependence of the energy systems have contributed to the rising cost of living globally. Consequently, there is a need to balance the goal of achieving net zero emissions while ensuring a secure and affordable energy supply.

“As growth is occurring across sectors, demand for natural gas—a relatively clean fossil fuel and a crucial bridge toward China’s dual carbon goals—is poised for a rebound. We must continue to evolve to protect and enhance our energy systems for supply security and, in the future, try to meet the objective of net zero emissions,” says Yaoyu.

To ensure success, all parties within the energy ecosystem must play their part, whether they are involved in supply, demand or policymaking. The transition to greener gases, such as ammonia and hydrogen, currently requires direct government support, and regions around the world are supporting this drive differently.

“The U.S. is offering favorable tax breaks under the Inflation Reduction Act, while the Europeans are offering Contracts for Difference. The partnership between PCI and PETRONAS is a good example of two capable and trusted partners working together to drive the changes that the industry needs,” says Yaoyu.

“In Asia, PCI and PETRONAS can collaborate to promote new energy sources such as ammonia and hydrogen as global and mainstream fuels, while keeping the cost competitive. We can also work more closely to decarbonize the gas supply chain and proactively look at how to reduce direct and indirect emissions. This includes working with our downstream partners to reduce emissions by using carbon capture and storage,” he adds.

PCI’s Business
PetroChina International Company Limited (PCI), established in 2002, functions as the international trading arm for PetroChina, which is responsible for China’s imports and global commodities trading, including crude, oil products and natural gas. With 59 branches globally, PCI’s business covers more than 120 countries and regions around the world; it has established three Energy Trading Hubs in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Cathay Cargo: Delivering Know-How

With its diverse team of multi-racial, multi-generational staff, some striding purposefully, some with a more casual air, keeping its corridors perpetually alive with the rush of coordinated movement, it’s not difficult to see Cathay’s massive Hong Kong headquarters as a microcosm of the airline’s global operation. Located approximately three kilometers from Hong Kong International Airport, Cathay City is the headquarters of Hong Kong’s home carrier, an airline that, over its 77-year history, has emerged as one of the global leader in both passenger transport and cargo conveyancing.

While its passenger flight services will be familiar to many who have visited Hong Kong (or any of the other 65 destinations around the world it serves), its cargo resource—recently rebranded from Cathay Pacific Cargo to simply Cathay Cargo—has true hero status, having played an essential role in keeping its home city stocked during its long Covid-prompted isolation. Now, with such necessity well in the rearview mirror, Cathay Cargo is firmly in expansionary mode, confidently laying out its claim to being one of the most competent, dependable and comprehensive operators in the air freight sector. It is an ethos neatly summed up in the new campaign tagline it rolled out in a rare burst of video advertising in June this year—“We Know How.”

Prime movers: From champion horses to fine fresh foods, Cathay Cargo can do.

Straightforward, to the point and quietly confident, the qualities inherent in its tagline are equally evident in Tom Owen, Director Cargo—the man charged with ensuring his division makes good on its aim of becoming, as he terms it, “the world’s most customer-centric air cargo services brand.” It is a lofty aspiration, but one that Owen believes the company is already well on course to deliver upon.

 “E-commerce has boomed over recent years, and as this trend looks likely to be a sustained uptick, we have added capacity on routes with the highest demand, most notably from the Greater Bay Area to the U.S. and Europe.”

Tom Owen

Serving Specialist Segments

Buoyed by the cargo carrier’s significant role in Hong Kong’s recognition as the world’s busiest cargo airport in 2022, Owen is confident that it is well-prepared to meet the many new demands it faces in the post-pandemic era. Outlining the moves the carrier has made to optimize its services across several key segments, he says, “E-commerce has boomed over recent years, and as this trend looks likely to be a sustained uptick, we have added capacity on routes with the highest demand, most notably from the Greater Bay Area to the U.S. and Europe.

“At the same time, we have also responded to the surge in demand for fresh produce delivery. In fact, we now operate a dedicated service called Cathay Fresh, which is specifically designed to rapidly deliver such items from places such as Australia to Hong Kong, mainland China or the U.S. This has been backed by the doubling of our cold storage capacity and the introduction of priority lanes. We ensure quick farm-to-table delivery, allowing customers in Hong Kong to enjoy fresh seasonal produce within two days of packing in most cases.”

Tom Owen, Director Cargo, Cathay Pacific

Another specialized area where Cathay Cargo has been keen to bolster its offerings is pharmaceuticals, the flow of which was truly a matter of life and death on a massive scale not too long ago. Detailing how this solution has evolved, Owen says, “We have always had the temperature-control facilities to handle pharmaceuticals, but now, with our Cathay Pharma service, we are really making a virtue of that. Essentially, our resources allow us to carry pharmaceuticals from any part of the world to any other safely and rapidly.”

In many ways, it is this intelligent expansion and consolidation of its existing services that characterize Cathay Cargo’s forward strategy, an approach exemplified by the rethinking of its core mail handling services. Explaining the changes here, Owen says: “Our relaunched Cathay Mail service has once again been influenced by the surge in e-commerce volumes. This enables post offices worldwide, all of which aim to build their e-commerce presence, to track and trace their mail, while also providing them with a simplified billing and reconciliation system.

“Our ongoing commitment to digitization has also allowed us to incorporate this same level of transparency and accountability into our activities across the board. Basically, we have integrated all our paper-based procedures relating to every component of the supply chain into one digital system. This provides users with an end-to-end track and trace capability, allowing them to monitor their cargo across a variety of metrics, including exact status and current temperature. The system can also be used to place initial bookings.”

Taking the GBA Truly Global

Aside from its expertise, Cathay Cargo’s other significant advantages are its geographical affiliations and connectivity, both of which it has adeptly harnessed as it looks to bolster its global offerings. Among the most notable of these is its extended home market of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), the massive priority development zone that encompasses nine mainland cities in Guangdong, as well as Macau and Hong Kong.

Given the sheer size of the GBA’s existing manufacturing base and the expectation of rapid expansion in the years to come, Cathay Cargo has understandably moved swiftly to position itself at the center of the zone’s logistics resources. Indeed, when the Airport Authority Hong Kong opened a cargo terminal in Dongguan, one of the mainland GBA cities, Cathay Cargo was the first to establish a dedicated on-site facility—Cathay Cargo Terminal Dongguan.

Cathay Cargo

Commenting on its significance and utility, Owen says, “This puts us right at the heart of the GBA manufacturing region. We can now transport cargo by barge, having been pre-cleared by customs and security upstream in Dongguan, directly to Hong Kong International Airport. This saves on handling costs and reduces transit time for customers, providing us with a seamless connectivity advantage in this dynamic region for both exports and, in the future, imports.”

Fortuitously, with Cathay Cargo clearly reinventing itself and looking to showcase the realities that underpin its “We Know How” tagline, there couldn’t be a better time for the IATA World Cargo Symposium—one of the industry’s most prestigious events—to take place in Hong Kong next year.

Clearly relishing the opportunity it represents, Owen says: “As the host airline for the biggest air cargo event of the year, I’m delighted that very senior people from the industry will be coming to see for themselves what we are capable of. We’ll be providing a very warm welcome for anyone who wants to know more about us.”

Unleashing Innovation: How AI, Bio And Cleantech Keep LG Ahead Of The Curve

For the past five years, LG has quietly, but with great purpose, been laying the foundation for its future growth strategy, placing big bets on three key industries at the heart of the future global economy: AI, bio and cleantech.

The bold approach is led by the conglomerate’s Chairman and CEO of LG Corporation, Koo Kwang-mo, who took the helm in June 2018 and immediately sparked a transformative shift by calling on the company to build its future business portfolio with a proactive look to the future. Urging the company’s leaders to continue thinking long term, he pointed out that previous bases for the company’s industry-leading success in electronics, batteries and OLED displays were built on a solid foundation of innovation and planning.

Koo Kwang-mo, Chairman and CEO of LG Corporation

“Throughout our journey, LG has always been a pioneer, thinking decades ahead,” Koo says. “The investments we’re making in AI, bio, and cleantech are the building blocks of our future success, provided we stay dedicated to innovation and challenges.”

The Path to AI, Bio and Cleantech

Koo’s moves serve as a testament to LG’s focus on enhancing shareholder value in the long term. He has led investment in three business lines with strong growth potential that also undergird LG’s commitment to delivering strong value to consumers and long-term environmental sustainability.

All three areas call for strategic, long-term patience. The drive toward becoming a key player in AI is a nod to the forthcoming industrial transformations, as technology continues to redefine business paradigms in nearly every sector. In bio, LG seeks to deliver a brighter future for humanity, with investments aimed at developing treatments and cures for a range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, obesity and diabetes.

The company’s cleantech investments go beyond corporate responsibility, as LG looks to develop and leverage technologies designed to help companies and organizations achieve key sustainability goals, such as decarbonization and building a circular economy.

Laying the Groundwork for Future Growth With AI

LG has earmarked a substantial R&D investment of nearly US$3 billion in AI over the next five years. The LG AI Research, opened in 2020, is an AI hub for bringing the company’s vision to life. In July, scientists and engineers at the LG AI Research initiated EXAONE 2.0, a large-scale multimodal AI designed to work jointly with human intelligence in learning from some 45 million professional documents, including patents and papers, and 350 million pieces of image-text data. This will help LG to create new customer value by using AI to solve key challenges in various industries.

EXAONE 2.0’s three platforms—Universe, Atelier and Discovery—contribute significantly to research. Discovery, for example, incorporates molecular structures, formulas, charts, tables and images, aiming to reduce development time for various innovations, from new materials to new medications. This will significantly reduce trial and error during R&D.

LG has also formed strategic research alliances with top-tier institutions, such as the University of Michigan, Seoul National University and the University of Toronto, all with the aim of accelerating investments in large-scale AI and discovering blue ocean technologies. It is also partnering with leading players in IT, finance, manufacturing, telecommunications and healthcare. A recent tie-up with Qraft Technologies, a fintech startup, will release an innovative AI-based ETF on the New York Stock Exchange.

Blazing a Trail Toward a Transformative Bio Business

Following Koo’s appointment in 2018, the company moved quickly to strengthen its R&D capacity for new drug development, and the hard work is already paying off with an expanding pipeline of treatments in a variety of important areas such as cancer and diabetes. From a modest 10 candidates in 2018 to over 40 today, with half targeting cancer, LG’s researchers are already finding success.

The acquisition of AVEO Pharmaceuticals, a prominent player in the U.S. anti-cancer field, further highlights LG’s determination to be at the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation.

LG aims to achieve top-tier status in the global pharmaceutical industry by 2030. Cancer treatments are a crucial component of this strategy, and the company has established a task force with specialized researchers to spearhead the development of cell therapies.

Pioneering Cleantech Initiatives for a Sustainable Tomorrow

LG’s vision in cleantech encompasses three strategic pillars: developing eco-friendly plastics with biomaterials, harnessing recycling technologies for waste plastics and batteries, and bolstering carbon reduction technologies using renewable energy sources like solar and hydrogen. LG Energy Solution, a prominent player in the global EV battery market, is capitalizing on the surging global demand for electric vehicles.

LG Energy Solution currently operates a plant in Michigan and recently announced another standalone facility in Arizona. The company is also running a joint operation with GM in Ohio, and is building new plants with GM in Tennessee and Michigan. Additionally, LG Energy Solution has joint ventures with Honda in Ohio, Hyundai Motor Group in Georgia, and Stellantis in Ontario, Canada, and is rapidly strengthening its global supply chain for critical raw materials.

It has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by working on investments in recycling and reusing waste batteries, including an innovative battery-as-a-service (BaaS) business to help customers manage their batteries efficiently.

The circular economy is another key part of the picture, as LG ventures into chemical recycling to boost sustainability. LG Chem will build South Korea’s first plant for pyrolysis oil, a renewable fuel extracted from used plastics, with an annual capacity of 20,000 tons by the first quarter of 2024. It also announced a US$2.3 billion investment in sustainability businesses centered on eco-friendly materials by 2050 to build the renewable energy industry into a future growth pillar.

The next chapter in the company’s history is currently unfolding, with AI, bio and cleantech taking center stage as the new stars. The story looks set to play out over the next two decades, and it promises to be a fascinating journey to witness.

Going Beyond Silk

From its humble beginnings in Bangkok during the 1950s, Jim Thompson has grown into an iconic lifestyle brand renowned for its exceptional silk fabrics, home furnishings, as well as food and beverage offerings.

Jim Thompson Group CEO Frank Cancelloni, who took over the helm in 2021, believes the brand has the potential to achieve greater heights. He says, “With all its unique attributes and roots in arts, fashion and hospitality, along with its distinctive heritage, Jim Thompson is on track to become, in the mid-term, the first truly global Asian lifestyle brand, akin to the status of Ralph Lauren in the U.S. or Giorgio Armani in Europe.” 

Jim Thompson has grown into an iconic lifestyle brand renowned for its exceptional silk fabrics, home furnishings, as well as food and beverage offerings.

Unique Attributes

Many successful global fashion and lifestyle brands have one thing in common: they have a rich history. In Jim Thompson’s case, the brand’s heritage can be traced back to 1951, when James H.W. Thompson, a former operative for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (now known as the CIA), founded the Thai Silk Company. His vision was to support the traditional livelihoods, culture and dignity of local weavers and silk farmers.

The brand’s success was attributed to Thompson’s focus on creating designs that seamlessly blended both Asian and Western elements while maintaining an unwavering commitment to quality. The brand gained prominence when its silk fabrics were featured in the Broadway production of The King and I, and it earned early patronage from Queen Sirikit.

Despite Thompson’s mysterious disappearance in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, in 1967, the company and the Jim Thompson brand of silk products continued to grow from strength
to strength.

Exponential Growth

Today, Jim Thompson has 21 stores under its fashion business unit spread across Thailand, with celebrities, politicians and diplomats counting as regular clients. The business is focused on the tourist market as well as the growing middle- and upper-class segments of the local population.

Its home furnishings business unit, on the other hand, has a presence in more than 60 countries worldwide, with showrooms in Atlanta, New York and Paris. The food and beverage arm of the company comprises Jim Thompson, a Thai Restaurant, Silk Café and Jim’s Terrace—all under one roof in the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok. The soon-to-open The OSS Bar will pay homage to Thompson’s affiliation with the Office of Strategic Services, embodying his legacy.

Beyond Silk

The company recently embarked on a “Beyond Silk” strategy to position itself as a dynamic and innovative lifestyle brand, offering a diverse product portfolio that goes beyond traditional silk products to include materials such as linen and cotton. It also employs innovative technologies to develop high-performance and “Easy Care” silk to cater to different customer needs and preferences.

Until recently, Jim Thompson was perceived as a tourist-oriented brand while locals see it as a gifting option. “With our renewed focus on contemporary design, a thoughtfully curated assortment of products and strategic collaborations, we are experiencing a significant shift in perception,” says Cancelloni. “Our well-targeted digital campaigns have played a crucial role in this transformation. As a result, we are now successfully attracting a growing number of local, younger customers who are purchasing our products for themselves, while still retaining a strong presence in the tourist market.”

This positive momentum is a testament to the brand’s adaptability and resonance with diverse audiences.

Found In Translation: Minor Hotels’ Winning Global Strategy

Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel

The Asia-born Minor Hotels is having a European moment. And if the recent launch of Anantara-branded hotels in Nice, Amalfi and Dublin, as well as several Avani-branded properties on the continent are anything to go by, that moment won’t be ending any time soon.

Across the world, a similar story is emerging, only in reverse, as two of Europe’s best-known hotel brands—NH Hotels and NH Collection—make inroads into Asia and the Middle East.

It’s a sign the global growth strategy of Minor Hotels, led by CEO Dillip Rajakarier and the group’s Founder and Chairman, William E. Heinecke, is bearing fruit.

Seeds of that plan were planted five years ago with the acquisition of Madrid-based NH Group, which added three brands with strong presence and consumer awareness in Europe—NH Hotels, NH Collection and nhow Hotels—to Minor Hotel’s portfolio. With eight distinct brands under its umbrella—including Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, Avani Hotels & Resorts and Tivoli Hotels & Resorts—Minor is aiming at further growth.

“The NH properties have unlocked parts of the world that we never had access to before,” says Heinecke, who has been in the hotel business since 1978. “Importantly, it allows us to leverage the huge potential of the outbound Asian travel market to our brands in Europe, while also bringing some of Europe’s best-known hotel brands to Asia and the Middle East to capture inbound demand.”

Riding Asia’s Outbound Wave

Minor is not shy about its ambitions to become the world’s most profitable hotel company, aiming to open 50 new properties by 2024, adding more than 10,000 rooms.

The group opened Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel and Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel this year, and now has eight Anantara properties in the region, while Avani expanded its European footprint in Madrid and Milan in July.

European brands NH Collection and NH Hotels debuted in the Middle East and Asia with the opening of NH Collection Dubai The Palm, NH Collection Maldives Havodda Resort, NH Boat Lagoon Phuket Resort and more to come.

This growth is likely to be buoyed by significant tailwinds, as emerging market conditions look to favor the group’s unique position as a major Asia-born global player. International tourism recovery is gaining momentum, and Asia-Pacific is well-positioned for a full-fledged resurgence by 2024.

“The exchange of brands and guest segments between Asia, the Middle East and Europe is one of the key drivers of Minor Hotel’s expansion strategy aimed to increase profitability for the group, grow brand awareness, and solidify its position as a truly global player,” says Rajakarier, a key architect of the group’s growth strategy.

Avani Palazzo Moscova Milan Hotel and NH Collection Maldives Havodda Resort

Beyond Hotels: An Emerging Lifestyle Ecosystem

Minor Hotels’ cross-continental expansion extends to more than just hotels, as it looks to cement its reputation as a creator of lifestyle experiences that include restaurants, beach clubs, luxury trains and wellness clinics, as well as branded residences.

The Wolseley, an iconic London eatery acquired by Minor in 2022, is a case in point. In April, Café Wolseley began a short-term residency at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, one of the brand’s flagship hotels. Minor is exploring opportunities to grow The Wolseley.

“There is always growth opportunity in introducing well-recognized brands to new markets,” Heinecke says. “Part of staying nimble is listening to what customers are asking for, and our recent acquisitions are enabling us to meet those needs in new destinations worldwide.”


QSR Brands Charts A New Path

Business transformation has its challenges, but with the right organizational culture in place, the journey can be smoother. Nehchal Khanna, CEO and Managing Director of QSR Brands Holdings Bhd. (QSR Brands), a privately owned food-technology company in Malaysia, is resolute in his pursuit to lay down a fresh and robust foundation for the company.

As a franchisee of KFC and Pizza Hut in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Cambodia, QSR Brands has established itself as a prominent food chain brand in the market.

Nehchal Khanna at the launch of Kentucky Town at Sunway Pyramid in July.

The company introduced a new “flywheel” model a year ago, says Khanna, which sets the tone for the newfound culture and encapsulates the distinctive QSR approach to operations. This flywheel is underpinned by four core values: growing people as builders; daring to innovate boldly; never giving up; and putting customers first.

“One of the first priorities was to transform people and their attitudes,” Khanna says. “We knew we needed a set of principles and a culture to which everyone could subscribe. We wanted everyone to behave in a more entrepreneurial way by taking ownership.”

The transformation was imperative, says Khanna, as it would help the company scale and enhance its agility in tackling prevailing market challenges, such as hyperinflation, supply chain disruptions, rising interest rates and evolving consumer demands.

Catalyst for Change

Looking back at the events over the past few years, Khanna notes that the pandemic has played a pivotal role in reshaping the company’s perspectives, fostering better adaptability.

“In some ways, the pandemic has served as a springboard and a catalyst for change for QSR Brands,” he says.

The nationwide lockdowns in Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia had an impact on the company’s business, which derived on average 40% of its revenue from dine-in services. “We made a bold decision to pivot very early on, turning to e-commerce and digital channels,” says Khanna.

The decision paid off as QSR Brands successfully concluded the year 2020 with revenue that was “closely comparable” to that of 2019 despite the widespread challenges faced by numerous businesses. 

Khanna also emphasized that none of these changes could have taken off without the strong backing of the board, especially the Chairman, Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, and the shareholders. “I am really grateful that the board and shareholders gave me the support and confidence to carry these initiatives through. That made all the difference,” he says.

Nehchal Khanna, CEO and Managing Director of QSR Brands Holdings Bhd.

Growth Momentum

Today, QSR Brands has over 1,400 KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants across Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Cambodia, and employs over 30,000 people across these markets.

QSR Brands has seen positive growth momentum since the start of 2023, says Khanna, adding that the company has achieved double-digit growth in the first half of the year.

He attributes this success to three key drivers, namely, the company’s people and culture, its new business model and technology.

People at its Core

One of the key initiatives QSR Brands undertook was to further empower its employees, as the company believes that its future success depends on the “scalability of cultural change across the organization.”

Khanna says, “The leadership team is entirely empowered; they have a great deal of autonomy and they are able to pass that down through the ranks.”

The company also emphasizes continuous employee support, exemplified during the pandemic when it chose not to retrench any of its 30,000 employees, in contrast to industry trends.

The company has also set up a special talent development initiative—GROW— grooming around 100 high-potential individuals as next-generation leaders through an in-house MBA-like initiative.

Customers enjoyed Pizza Hut’s newest product range, Melts, at the Genshin Impact fan event.
Take-away kiosks were installed at Pizza Hut to minimize contact post-pandemic

Continuous Innovation

As part of the efforts to refine its business model, Khanna has dedicated substantial time to crafting proprietary frameworks. Notably, the transaction velocity strategy, comprising eight levers, emerged as a standout framework. Khanna says, “Sales growth is really about transaction growth, serving as a direct sales indicator.”

Another lever is menu innovation, an area where QSR Brands excels. New menu items such as the Juicy Whole Chicken, Satay Burger and Melts have not only enticed new customers but also increased repeat visits.

To further enhance the customer’s digital experience, the company launched a new KFC Malaysia mobile app last year, offering e-commerce, gamification, loyalty programs and digital vouchers. Within 11 months post-launch, the app has garnered an impressive 1 million subscribers.

Customers at KFC’s self-ordering kiosks

Looking Ahead

Recognizing that QSR Brands plays an important role in the area of food sustainability, Khanna says the company takes Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters seriously.

“Having a strong governance in place is crucial as it will be the key pillar that supports the group’s environmental and social initiatives,” he says. “We have a new head of governance, and he is taking the lead so that everyone is putting the firm first when making any decisions.”

Looking ahead, QSR Brands aspires to improve its ranking among restaurant operators worldwide, aiming to secure a spot in the top five within the next three to five years. This objective aligns seamlessly with its overarching vision of becoming the foremost food-technology company in ASEAN.


Change Today, Shape The Future

Leading Aboitiz Group’s journey toward becoming the Philippines’ first techglomerate is Sabin M. Aboitiz, Group CEO and Aboitiz Foundation Chairman.

With its current “Great Transformation” to become the Philippines’ first “techglomerate,” Aboitiz is redrawing its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) blueprint by placing people at the center of everything. This approach to “One New Aboitiz” is not a mere strategy; it is a holistic shift that harmonizes technology, business, and humanity. And never has this been more evident than in the work of its corporate citizenship arm, Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (AFI), which is celebrating 35 years of transforming lives for the better.

With its myriad of ESG initiatives spanning digitalization and inclusion, renewable energy, water and forest management, health and safety, climate action, and corporate social responsibility (CSR), Aboitiz Foundation has always been dedicated to sustainability. And the group’s recent focus on becoming a techglomerate amplifies the foundation’s commitment to this cause. By harnessing data science and artificial intelligence, it is not only seeking to solve problems faster and on a larger scale but also striving to shape a sustainable future for mankind.

After more than three decades of primarily building sustainable communities, the foundation now promises to change through three flagship pillars: Future Leaders, Enterprise and Jobs, and Climate Action. Future Leaders centers on STEM education for emerging scientists, engineers, data specialists, forward-thinking leaders and entrepreneurs—people adept at addressing urgent challenges, something the Philippines urgently needs. Enterprise and Jobs aims to reduce the digital divide for MSMEs and cooperative advancement, promoting wealth creation, future-oriented upskilling, and employment. Finally, Climate Action concentrates on co-creating climate-resilient ecosystems through nature-based solutions, encompassing carbon and waste management, adaptation, mitigation, biodiversity oversight and habitat conservation.

Aligning with Global Goals
AFI’s ESG ambitions align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But what sets it apart is its commitment to addressing these objectives not in isolation, but as an ecosystem of interconnected goals. This synergetic approach combines environmental preservation, social impact, and sound governance to benefit people and communities above all.

Consider the case of biodiversity management, a responsibility in the “E” of ESG. By plugging community involvement into the equation, AFI ensures that the beneficial ripples of ecological preservation reach the communities surrounding these protected areas. This person-centric perspective, coupled with technological advancements, is emblematic of the group’s promise to advance business and communities.

President and CEO Sabin Aboitiz never fails to remind team members that sustainability is always and ultimately about people. From generating employment opportunities and nurturing entrepreneurial growth to bolstering education, the endeavors of the Aboitiz Foundation over the last 35 years mirror this belief. And the foundation’s future collaboration with global partners, such as integrating solutions like plastic waste management technologies, hopes to further underscore this commitment to humanity.

Furthermore, according to Aboitiz, ESG is not a responsibility that should rest solely on corporate shoulders. Individuals play a crucial role in driving sustainable change as much as benefiting from it. “Every choice we make, whether as consumers, investors, or as members of society, has the potential to impact our environment, communities and governance structures,” says Aboitiz. “By understanding and acting upon this, we can pick up the pace of sustainable transformation.”

Putting People First
But what truly sets the foundation apart from many other sustainability programs is its sharp focus on empathy. It seeks to understand the experiences and pain points of its stakeholders, be they employees, shareholders, communities, or beneficiaries of their ESG initiatives. By putting itself in the shoes of those it serves, the foundation uncovers effective and expedient solutions to pressing issues. This is what they call a “techglomerate in action,” which refers to a conglomerate that leverages technology to improve society.

The first batch of women from Toledo City graduated from the Aboitiz Foundation and Connected Women’s Elevate AIDA Program, which aims to train 300,000 women by 2025 by partnering with both public and private institutions. Photo courtesy of the Toledo City Public Information Office.

“It isn’t just about mitigating climate change,” says Aboitiz. “As a techglomerate, we are trying to reshape our past understanding of ESG by putting a unique emphasis on the “S.” The foundation’s belief is clear: people are the heart and soul of all its endeavors, making Aboitiz’s Great Transformation (GT) a cultural revolution for corporations in the Philippines to join.

Through its Future Leaders pillar, the Aboitiz Foundation is nurturing tomorrow’s leaders through its education programs.

Under Sabin Aboitiz’s leadership, the GT is preparing the organization’s employees to address sustainability challenges innovatively and effectively. Just like its business model, the company’s transformation is customer-, stakeholder- and human-centric, reflecting the principle that everything in this world is interconnected through and for human beings. They are both the driving force behind the GT, as well as its ultimate beneficiaries.

Leveraging Technology
As it celebrates this momentous anniversary and journeys forward, Aboitiz Foundation strengthens its commitment to using technology as a lever to fuel its sustainability agenda and ensure better lives for Filipinos. A “Great Transformation” sounds audacious, but it is grounded in the belief that true sustainability can only be achieved when solutions are designed with people at the core. “The challenges of sustainability are a collective responsibility that can be surmounted through collaboration, empathy and innovation,” says Aboitiz Chief Reputation and Sustainability Officer Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar.

A farmer from one of Aboitiz’s community beneficiaries goes digital through the Foundation’s Enterprise and Jobs project Byaheng Digiskarte.

The techglomerate model is more than just a new operational framework for the foundation. It’s a clarion call for other corporations to reload their sustainability strategies and raise the bar. By embracing the convergence of technology and humanity, businesses can accelerate the journey toward a world where environmental conservation, social responsibility and good governance coalesce for the betterment of people and the planet.

The Aboitiz Foundation story is really about the sustainability of the human race, and it serves as a compelling manifesto for other foundations and corporations to take a page out of. The foundation’s approach hopes to help illuminate the path to a future where corporations do not just contribute to a better world but actually co-create it.

In the ever-evolving realm of ESG, the foundation’s 35-year-old history serves as a strong reminder that businesses have a fundamental role to play in societal change. As the foundation moves forward, the group seems fairly convinced that the GT will not just reshape the way it thinks and acts, but also redefine the very contours of sustainable corporate practice in the Philippines.

Mapping A Sustainable Path Forward

The FedEx journey continues to be driven by innovation and digitally driven solutions to enhance the experience for customers. Fifty years on, FedEx is also leveraging technology to help solve the sustainability challenge. “In the words of our founder, we have always put sustainability at the center of our business because we know that the future of our business is tied to the climate, the environment and the future of our planet,” says Kawal Preet, President of the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA) region at FedEx Express.

“We view sustainability through the lens of opportunity, growth and profitability as well as a clear purpose to connect businesses and communities.”

FedEx has invested in digital solutions and EVs to power its business.

Continuous Tech Innovation

FedEx is embracing advanced technologies to explore new possibilities in operational efficiency. In markets like Singapore and China, FedEx introduced artificial intelligence-powered robotic sorting arms at sorting centers and hubs to drive overall operational efficiency. With machine learning, Estimated Delivery Time Window (EDTW) provides FedEx customers in Japan and Hong Kong with a target delivery time.

FedEx continues to roll out products and solutions for customers in a mobile-first world. For instance, Picture Proof of Delivery gives customers the assurance that their package has been delivered to their doorsteps. Through FedEx Ship Manager Lite, customers can arrange shipments on their mobile devices without having to print documents at home. WhatsApp notifications are integrated into its FedEx Delivery Manager International platform for customizable delivery options, with direct messaging and tracking for convenience.

Commitment to Sustainability

FedEx is making great strides in its journey toward carbon neutral operations—from vehicle electrification to energy-efficient facilities and infrastructure.

“We are creating a smarter network that is flexible and intelligent—not just for today but well into the future, enabling customers to compete and win,” says Preet. “This includes how we ensure sustainability is fully aligned with our business strategy.”

Digital technology is helping FedEx innovate to provide paperless solutions and more convenience to its customers. With millions of packages in FedEx’s system every day, minimizing paper usage makes a difference. For example, by using Electronic Trade Documents, customers can submit information essential for customs clearance electronically. This means there is no need to attach printed paperwork to each shipment and delays at customs can be avoided.

Electric vehicles (EVs) will make up 50% of the FedEx pick-up and delivery vehicle purchases by 2025, rising to 100% by 2030. More EVs are being deployed across the AMEA region including in South Africa, China, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

FedEx’s new facilities across AMEA like in Johannesburg, South Africa, Clark in the Philippines, Adelaide gateway in Australia and the upcoming Dubai World Central Airport hub in the UAE, incorporate multiple layers of sustainability features, from construction materials to lighting, ventilation, insulation, water recycling and renewable power generation. FedEx Incheon gateway in South Korea, for example, boasts of 2,400 solar panels on its rooftop, which can generate 19% of the facility’s monthly energy needs.

Ultimately, through company-wide initiatives like these and more in the pipeline, FedEx is well on its way to achieving carbon-neutral operations by 2040.

Empowering Sustainable Business Practices

Recently, the company launched FedEx Sustainability Insights across AMEA markets to give customers better visibility of their carbon footprint within their supply chains, supporting reporting and strategic future planning.

Preet says, “We are living in a time when sustainability is a core strategic consideration for businesses and a driver of innovation and talent attraction. We are fortunate at FedEx that our leaders have always been fully engaged in setting and enabling sustainability goals. Addressing climate change is bigger than one business and we must all work together on sound policy and innovative solutions for our planet.