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Suite Talk: Thatcher Brown, president, Dream Cruises

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Thatcher Brown, president of Dream Cruises, says the opportunity to work with Genting Hong Kong and launch Dream Cruises, the first-ever Asian luxury cruise line, was something too good to pass up.

Q.What brought you into the cruise industry? What do you love about it?

My first exposure to the cruise industry was when I was 18 years old and decided to take a “gap year” before university and work as an apprentice on a luxury cruise ship called Royal Viking Sea. It was after that experience that my passion for travel, food and deep curiosity about different cultures emerged – I knew that I would pursue a career in the hospitality industry.

After completing my studies in liberal arts, and then, hotel administration, I began my career in hospitality. Over the years, I switched from land-based to cruise-based positions. Each time I returned to opportunities in the cruise industry, I realised how much I liked being near the sea.

Q.The cruising business in Hong Kong and Asia is starting to take off. What do you see in the future for this industry?

With Genting Hong Kong’s long history in the Asia Pacific, we have seen the phenomenal growth of the cruise market over the past two decades in the region – from nearly nothing in 1993 to almost 1.5 million passengers in the present day.

There continues to be an upward trend in the cruise industry in Asia with a growing high-end market segment, which is further supported by the rapid emergence of Asia’s middle and affluent classes, bringing far-reaching economic change.

The number of Chinese and Asian cruise vacationers has grown substantially over the past few years and they have developed a more sophisticated understanding of cruise products: they are better able to appreciate the value of a luxury cruise line, such as Dream Cruises.

Looking forward, it is projected that by 2020, the number of upper-middle class and affluent households in China alone will double to 100 million and account for 30% of all urban households, compared with 17% today and only 7% in 2010.

It is also estimated that by 2030, China’s cruise market penetration rate will increase from 0.5% to 1% and China’s annual cruise passengers will reach eight to 10 million.

I have always been attracted to what I consider a “noble profession” of service to others, which keeps my passion alive for the travel and hospitality industry.

Q. What are your challenges in recruiting and how do you work with HR to overcome those challenges?

With the China and Hong Kong market predominantly the focus of the cruise industry’s attention these days, it comes as no surprise that many of the major cruise brands are developing ships that will be specially created for these markets. Hence, there is a demand on home-grown talent.

We have developed a comprehensive talent strategy in talent acquisition, training, development and retention. Impressive remuneration packages and promising career prospects will be offered to attract the right talent. Comprehensive training programmes such as orientation training, on-the-job training and safety training, as well as employee reward and engagement programmes will also serve as a means to retain our talent.

Currently, our talent acquisition and training programmes are on the right track. More and more talent will be joining our Dream Cruises family.

Q. How would you describe your management style?

I have always been attracted to what I consider a “noble profession” of service to others, which keeps my passion alive for the travel and hospitality industry.

Providing leadership and guidance that motivates my team to deliver their best is what inspires me. Achievements are important in terms of delivering results, but the journey is by far the most rewarding.

From a broader career perspective, I am most fulfilled when I am able to directly link a specific behaviour or action of a guest-facing colleague back to a strategic corporate intent. So, when a colleague understands their role in delivering the brand and consistently acts on that promise, it is a joyful moment.

Providing leadership and guidance that motivates my team to deliver their best is what inspires me.

Q. You have worked in a number of places, what do you think of living and working in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a dynamic city of contrasts, with its dramatic Victoria Harbour, towering neon-lit skyline and bustling streets. It’s a shopping paradise with everything from the very latest international luxury fashions to handmade clothing by local tailors. An eclectic range of Asian and international cuisines are to be found from Michelin-star eateries to bustling dai pai dongs and open street markets.

I love Hong Kong. Here we have an enthusiastic, talented team at Dream Cruises – we share the same vision and are motivated by success and by making a positive impact on the industry with the introduction of the first-ever Asian luxury cruise line.

Q.What do you like doing during your free time?

I am an avid reader and enjoy reading non-fiction. I am also keen on studying languages.
I started my career as a hotelier in the food and beverage industry, so on weekends you will find me in the kitchen cooking for my family.

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