Cheng Meng Hwang joined CWT as Head of Global Market Management & Development for APAC. A 25-year veteran in Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and travel IT based in Singapore, he earned his stripes in the travel industry, and has worked overseas in commercial sales, business development, customer engagement, operations and consultancy roles for leading global travel technology companies including Amadeus and Abacus (now Sabre).
We talk with Cheng Meng about his new role, the importance of knowing yourself and your competitors, and how to think carefully about the colour of the business suit you are going to wear.
What gets you excited about your new role?
Although I already have 25 years of experience in the GDS business and supplying IT solutions, this role with CWT allows me to connect to the demand side of the travel business and gives me a more holistic overview of the entire travel services ecosystem. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking, but it's also constantly stimulating as I acquire new knowledge and unlearn old routines, to position myself to write a fresh story with a clean slate. It is a blessing that I have a good team in place, and colleagues who have been extremely helpful in sharing their experiences to get me settled in quickly.
What is the biggest triumph of your career?
In 2000 I was responsible for the start-up of the China representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, in my previous company, to enhance relationships with the Chinese Authorities and Chinese carriers. This was before foreign GDS’s were fully legalised to operate in China. The annual bookings had grown exponentially by the time I left my China posting in 2003.
What is the biggest disaster of your career?
In the early 2000’s I wore a nice olive green suit to a meeting with a Chinese state-owned enterprise. Only later I found out that my green suit was not a great pick. My staff said the colour of my suit resembled the green uniforms worn by the red guards during the Chinese cultural revolution and therefore was totally inappropriate. Luckily, I had not matched it with a red tie or a red book to take notes during the meeting! Although it did not impact the outcome of the business meeting, it was a huge lesson learned to pick your business suit wisely.
What is your favourite book and why?
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (the original Chinese version). The book is about the most famous military treatise in Asia in the last two thousand years. It is broadly read within the business world as the ‘basic primer’ for competitive strategy, and the analogy is easily adaptable to marketing.
My favourite phrase from the book : “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” There are two essential things you need when going to battle – to truly know yourself and your competitor(s): including strengths and weaknesses to assess the landscape and situation. Seizing the opportunity to be successful and win is applicable to doing business today.
What advice would you give to businesses looking for a travel management company?
It is crucial to clearly understand and define the objectives you want to achieve as a business. A good travel management company (TMC) like CWT can help organizations to calibrate their requirements accordingly. This helps to avoid excessive wish lists which may not be realistic to achieve. With back to travel initiatives, businesses will be focusing on the latest immigration policies of countries and overall well-being of their employees. TMCs will need to align with customers as they prepare themselves to adapt back to normalcy and build confidence to start traveling once international borders reopen. A good TMC strives to improve their technological innovation, products and solutions, and ultimately their service and value add.