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‘Soft’ skills important in tourism, AirAsia boss tells students

Group Chief Executive Officer of low-cost airline AirAsia Mr. Tony Fernandes (pictured, centre) in an exchange session during his presentation at the PATA Youth Symposium 2017

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Tourism students should give importance to ‘soft’ skills acquired as part of their educational journey, and not just focus on academic grades, says the Group Chief Executive Officer of low-cost airline AirAsia, Mr. Tony Fernandes. He made the observation when visiting IFT on 13 September as a guest speaker at the PATA Youth Symposium 2017.

On the sidelines of the event, Mr. Fernandes told reporters a good education was important in order for young professionals in tourism to achieve success.

He added: “Education is important for 2 reasons: it is not just about getting 15 ‘A’ grades or being a brilliant student; it is about being able to be in a team, and being able to communicate with others. You can get 15 ‘A’ grades, but if you cannot make a decision in an instant, you are not so useful for a company.”

Mr. Fernandes, a Malaysian national, was sent by his family to a boarding school in the United Kingdom at the age of 12. He said the experience had helped shape his personality.

“I wasn’t a great student,” Mr Fernandes said.

He added: “I was sent to a different part of the world, which opened my eyes. So, I think differently – not always right – because I saw different things. I had experience of Asia and of Europe, and that is a big plus in my ability to communicate with others.”

Mr. Fernandes highlighted the quality of the questions posed to him by students in an exchange session during his presentation at the PATA Youth Symposium 2017. The event was attended by more than 250 students, scholars and tourism industry professionals from either Macao or further afield.

He also announced plans to offer internship opportunities at AirAsia for IFT students. The airline will now liaise with the Institute’s management on the details of the scheme.

“We definitely are going to do that,” Mr. Fernandes said, referring to the internship programme.

Any student studying for any IFT bachelor’s degree is required to do a 6-month internship of some type in Year 3. They can opt for placements in Macao or beyond. IFT has links with a 500-strong network of leading companies in tourism and hospitality in Macao and further afield which gives its undergraduates a wide range of internship opportunities.

During his presentation at the PATA Youth Symposium 2017, Mr. Fernandes discussed AirAsia’s development and the role the firm has been playing in offering air travel to an ever-greater number of customers. Mr. Fernandes explained how the company – heavily indebted when he bought it for US$0.25 in 2001 – had grown to become one of the most successful airlines in the world.

The PATA Youth Symposium – by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) – aims to enable higher education students and young professionals to engage with tourism industry leaders. The 2017 edition featured plenary sessions and round-table discussions on various topics relevant to tourism and hospitality.

During his visit to IFT, Mr. Fernandes announced plans to increase the scope of AirAsia services to Macao. He said the company planned to launch connections to between 5 and 6 new destinations on average per year, up to a total of around 40 destinations.

“It will bring a variety of travellers to Macao,” Mr. Fernandes said. “Macao’s tourism depends a lot on China, but it is good to have different pools of markets from different parts of the world.”

He added: “We have lots of plans for flights from the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia into Macao, and from some other destinations like Guam. Lots of things.”

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