Discovering a fresh philosophy in Shenzhen and talking Trinity in Ho Chi Minh City

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

My Interim CX 0766 Bureau en route from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City to Hong Kong International is open for business, leaving me an hour or so to complete this Blog and reflect on a whirlwind few days post the Hainan Expo in Haikou.

Actually I started it earlier, while relaxing inside the rather stylish SASCO lounge with a couple of cups of coffee to recharge me for my regular airborne scribing.

Getting down to work on the website that never sleeps and the Blog, its faithful nocturnal companion

The past week has taken in a fascinating encounter with the fresh (note, always lower case f) travel retail team and the now LVMH-led brand’s Co-Founders in  Shenzhen. Followed immediately by an exhilarating few days with IPP Group and Airports Corporation of Vietnam to sign off (literally) key arrangements for The Trinity Forum in November.

A splendidly local touch inside the SASCO Lounge at Tan Son Nhat International Airport 

I was invited to Shenzhen by Ariel Yak, fresh Travel Retail Asia Pacific’s human dynamo of a General Manager, to attend the 20th anniversary of the Crème Ancienne skincare line during a sumptuous gala dinner at Raffles Hotel.

Themed ‘20 years of craftsmanship, 2,000 years of history’ (I thought at first that was a sequential reference to The Moodie Davitt Report and my age), it was a fantastically celebratory and joyful evening, the kind of affair that puts a smile on your face for days.

I don’t sing for my supper (that would ruin everyone’s evening) but I do write for it and on this occasion the subjects of my narrative will be fresh Co-Founders Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, whom I had the honour of interviewing just after my arrival.

I am pictured with (left to right) fresh Global Travel Retail Marketing Director Caroll Li; fresh Co-Founders Alina Roytberg and Lev Glazman; and fresh Travel Retail Asia Pacific General Manager Ariel Yak

Regular readers of this Blog and my articles on our main website know that I love the storytelling aspect of my role more than any other element of running the ‘website (and the company) that never sleeps’. And what a story I discovered in conversation with these two remarkable entrepreneurs.

You don’t go from a start-up, single-store operation in 1991 to a powerhouse US brand within a few years and the subject of a successful (majority) divestment to the mighty LVMH before your first decade is out unless you are doing a whole lot of things right.

Today, boosted by the luxury giant’s international distribution network and research expertise, fresh has blossomed from its hand-wrapped artisanal soap origins (still hugely popular) to a full range of skincare, bodycare, fragrances and candles.

No star shines brighter within that glittering galaxy than Crème Ancienne, whose story sounds as if it has been cooked up by an overeager marketing guru but I assure you is true.

Glazman created Crème Ancienne while working at the fresh Research Lab, housed within the LVMH Helios Cosmetics Research Center in Saint-Jean-de-Braye, based on a formula for what is reputed to be the world’s first cream.

Pictured left to right are fresh Hong Kong Brand General Manager Emma Chan; LVMH Group President Greater China Andrew Wu; fresh Travel Retail Asia Pacific General Manager Ariel Yak; fresh Co-Founder Alina Roytberg; fresh Global CEO Ada Lien; fresh Co-Founder Lev Glazman; and fresh Brand General Manager China Yan Wang
‘Gala dinner theme: Retro White’ came the dress code instruction a couple of days before the event. Well I certainly qualify for the retro but the white poses a challenge if you are at a trade show in Hainan. However, Ariel kindly found me a white bow tie to go with my shirt to allow me to (just about) pass sartorial muster.

It was developed by 2nd-century scientist Claudius Galenus, who crafted balms to treat the wounds of gladiators. Having successfully replicated the formula alongside the lab scientists, Glazman determined that the artisan nature of the product meant it would have to be made by hand. Given its ancient origins – hence the name Crème Ancienne, coined by Roytberg – he decided it should be produced manually in a monastery or nunnery.

And that, believe it or not (and you should believe it because everything I write on this Blog, except for my age, is true), is what came to pass. Crème Ancienne, now a hugely successful global skincare line, is to this day produced in an undisclosed monastery in the Czech Republic, surely the beauty industry’s most unlikely production line.

“It represents everything we stand for – the history, the ritual, the attention to detail, the respect for innovation,” Lev Glazman told me. “And bringing back a piece of history that nobody knew about or was thinking about.”

Look out for my extensive interview with him and Alina Roytberg next month. It’s an almost definitive tale of entrepreneurialism and the vision, courage, risk, blood, sweat and sometimes tears that goes with it.

A memorable keepsake photo with (left to right) Lev Glazman, Ariel Yak, Alina Roytberg and Jason Cao, Founder of much-respected Chinese WeChat travel retail platform DutyFree Expert

I met up with another great entrepreneur a couple of days later in the form of Johnathan Hanh Nguyen, Founder of Imex Pan Pacific (IPP) Group, Chairman of airport company SASCO and one of Vietnam’s most powerful and visionary businessmen.

What better dinner companion can there be than the irrepressible and inspirational Johnathan Hanh Nguyen?

The Trinity Forum coming to Ho Chi Minh City is big news in Vietnam

As I noted in an earlier Blog, to chat with Johnathan is to embark on a voyage of discovery into Vietnam’s remarkable transition from an impoverished nation in the mid-1980s to an emerging Asian economic powerhouse four decades on.

It was he who opened the country to the world amid the debilitating decade-long sanctions imposed on it by the US after the Vietnam war ended. Johnathan did that by gaining the hard-won approval of then-Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos to allow a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Manila, later returning with some 30 tonnes of food and goods.

You can read that remarkable tale here but there will be many more chapters yet in the Johnathan Hanh Nguyen story as he continues a lifetime of service to his country.

As referenced earlier, the purpose of my visit to Ho Chi Minh City was to sign the Co-hosting agreement for The Trinity Forum (5-6 November) with IPP Group and Airports Corporation of Vietnam, along with our long-time Trinity partners ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East and ACI World.

Airports Corporation of Vietnam and Imex Pan Pacific Group welcomed guests with an evening featuring enchanting local dance and music performances

Most event signing ceremonies involve a brief photo-call while the necessary agreements are concluded. Not this one. State and local broadcasting, newspaper and online media were present in big numbers while the importance of the event coming to Vietnam for the first time was underlined by the presence of an array of top political and aviation officials.

A beautiful local music and dance performance hinted at the voyage of cultural discovery that The Trinity Forum will offer visitors, while a deliciously diverse seven-course meal celebrated one of the world’s great cuisines.

No, I promise I neither sang nor danced but it was a privilege to join such outstanding performers on stage for this memory of the occasion

Johnathan began his speech by recalling those extraordinary moments from 9 September 1985. “Thirty-nine years ago, the Vietnamese government entrusted me with the crucial task of opening Vietnam’s skies by launching international flights. Having successfully accomplished that mission, my enduring ambition has been to bring the best of the world to Vietnam.

Johnathan Hanh Nguyen: “We will strive to collaborate closely with all relevant parties to ensure the organisational aspects are handled excellently, so that every delegate attending The Trinity Forum in November 2024 will have an unforgettable experience in our country, Vietnam”
Pictured at the signing ceremony at the Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City are (front row left to right) IPPG President Le Hong Thuy Tien; ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East Director General Stefano Baronci; The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie; and Airports Corporation of Vietnam Vice General Director Nguyen Duc Hung. Witnessing the signing are (back row left to right) IPPG Vice President Phillip Nguyen; Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Chairman Nguyen Trung Khanh; Commission for the Management of State Capital at Enterprises Vice Chairman Nguyen Ngoc Canh; Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Vice Chairman Nguyen Van Dung; IPPG Founder & Chairman Johnathan Hanh Nguyen; and Airports Corporation of Vietnam Deputy General Director Nguyen Cao Cuong
Addressing guests, I said: “Vietnam is truly one of the world’s fastest-developing, most exciting airport, aviation, tourism and travel retail markets… attracting the intense interest of the biggest brands, most powerful travel retailers, the top food & beverage providers and more”
A nice moment as Airports Corporation of Vietnam Vice General Director Nguyen Duc Hung (second from left) and IPPG Vice President Phillip Nguyen (second right) proudly hold their respective Trinity Forum hosting certificates
More great shots as ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East Director General Stefano Baronci and I are presented with floral bouquets in thanks for their bringing The Trinity Forum to Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Vice Chairman Nguyen Van Dung (below left) and Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Chairman Nguyen Trung Khanh (below right)

It was an honour to chat with IPPG President Le Hong Thuy Tien, a key driver of the company’s success story
Vincci Chung, The Moodie Davitt Report Associate Director, Events, like me based in Hong Kong, does an incredible job for us in a very demanding role

“Today marks a significant milestone as we decide to host the Trinity Forum 2024 here in Ho Chi Minh City. This event is an integral part of our longstanding strategy to develop the aviation and travel retail industries, which our group has been actively pursuing for many years.

“Hosting the renowned Trinity Forum here in November 2024 offers us a tremendous opportunity to share experiences, promote tourism, and showcase the culture and people of Vietnam.”

And that is precisely what IPPG and ACV promise to do. If the signing ceremony Gala Dinner is anything to go by, the actual Trinity Forum will be unforgettable. The next night I dined with Johnathan’s son Phillip, Vice President of IPP Group and CEO of IPP Travel Retail. Events are a particular forte of Phillip’s and he is already on a mission to ensure not only a great Trinity Forum but an enduring and wonderful experience of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese media were out in force for the occasion. Here I talk to national TV about the role and importance of The Trinity Forum and the reason why Vietnam is such an ideal location for the event. 

Put The Trinity Forum 2024 in your diary now. And plan to stay for a few days. Without giving the game away, Phillip, IPPG and ACV have some special treats in store for you. ✈

They say the world is your oyster and Phillip Nguyen and I certainly did our best to come up with pearls of wisdom as we chatted about taking The Trinity Forum to a new level over a casual dinner at Nanaimo in District 2