Opening a finger lickin’, finger tappin’ Interim Bureau in Bangkok

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Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl
At the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance
Didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me?
I’ll conquer and stay free
– ⁠Six Months in a Leaky Boat, Tim Finn, Split Enz

I start this Blog on 1 March, St David’s Day the national day of Wales (now, more specifically in the small town of Ystradgynlais, the official global headquarters of The Moodie Davitt Report) and my birthday.

Although it pains me a little (but not a lot) to say this, it is my 68th. I have well and truly entered the stage of life – and certainly of career – where the mantle of ‘veteran’ is placed onto my shoulders and no amount of wishful thinking nor physical shaking is going to displace it. At least I still have the mental energy of a 12-year old, even if the body might be doing its best to add a century or so to that tally. There’s plenty of life, though, in the old dog yet.

On this very day in 1992 I assumed editorship of the then-market leading Duty-Free News International, having been Editor of its sister title Travel Retailer International (long since deceased) for the previous two years.

Counting the time before that and my protracted sojourn at The Moodie Davitt Report (known as The Moodie Report until 2015), over half those 68 years have been spent in travel retail publishing, starting not long after I stepped off a plane from my native New Zealand to my long-time home of England.

The last 22 of them (including the past four in Hong Kong) have been spent creating and leading The Moodie Davitt Report from a hopeful start-up in my garden shed in West London to the strong market leader it is today. Many a day and night along the way has been consumed on planes and in airports, stores and food & beverage outlets.

So it seems appropriate that I’m writing these words in one of the zillion interim bureaux I have set up over the years. Admittedly it’s not one of the most glamorous – a KFC in Don Mueang International Airport’s domestic departures zone – but it was the only F&B outlet with a power point (a constant bugbear of mine in airports) and hey, why not a bit of fast (and tasty) food indulgence on one’s birthday?

This is what you call a finger lickin’ and finger tappin’ good setting for my latest Interim Bureau at Don Mueang International Airport

That ability to report from pretty much anywhere has been a hallmark of our coverage over the past couple of decades. In recent times we have complemented our own extensive globetrotting with the creation of two new regional bases in Manila (led by Camille Bersola) and Hainan (led by China Chief Representative Yimei Zhang).

I’ve been back in Bangkok for the third time in a smattering of weeks, this time to deliver my impressions of the airport food & beverage sector to the SSP board, management and partners. What a great opportunity to catch up with so many key drivers of airport F&B, some of whom – like Chim Esteban in the Philippines and Varun Kapur in India – I have known for many years.

There is plenty of experience around this dinner gathering at the super Le Du restaurant, kindly hosted by Regent Asia Group Founder & Chairman Chim Esteban (left). With us are SSP Vice President Business Development and Branded Concepts Tony Cricenti (second from right); and Budi Purnomo, Director of Taurus Gemilang in Bali, Indonesia (right)
My time with SSP included an unforgettable cruise along the Chao Phraya River before a superb dinner at the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, owned by Minor Hotels, whose parent company Minor International is SSP’s long-time partner in Thailand
Nice to spend some quality time with SSP CEO Patrick Coveney
With me at the culmination of a superb Thai dance performance (not by us) are (from left) SSP plc Chairman of the Board Mike Clasper; legendary Minor International Founder Bill Heinecke; and SSP CEO Patrick Coveney
While in Thailand I also had the welcome opportunity to catch up with my long-time friend Mirko Wang, Founder of Jessica’s Secret in China, and his colleague Renee over dinner at the excellent Nara Thai restaurant at King Power Rangnam. We work very closely with Mirko and his team, including a collaboration on the highly popular Jessica’s Secret Index.

2 March

I close off this Blog from my Interim Phuket Bureau. My wife Yulim and I are celebrating my birthday in Old Phuket Town, staying at the delightfully quirky (and ridiculously good value for money) Woo Gallery& Boutique Hotel for two nights, before heading to the seaside for my first proper break since the pandemic began.

Given the very real chance of burning the restaurant down with the full set, I opted for a single candle

Perhaps inevitably after a relentless travel schedule over the past three months, I’ve come down with a nasty lurgy just as the prospect of some quality R&R beckons.

Such is life. And, anyway, this beautiful country they call The Land of Smiles will surely aid a swift recovery better than any doctor could. ✈

{Photo: Woo Gallery & Boutique Hotel}
{Photo: Woo Gallery & Boutique Hotel}