“We were so lucky,” said my WIT Australia partner, Elizabeth Rich, the day after we had wrapped up our one-day event at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.
She was referring to the fact that we had only two speakers and four delegates no-shows despite the ash cloud which returned to wreak havoc in Australian air space the day our event opened.
“You know why, right?” I asked her, looking her straight in the eye, as I picked at the nasi goreng and satay I was having for lunch.
“You’re not telling me it’s because of the 8, are you?” she looked at me in incredulity. In turn, I was looking at the congee she was having, in incredulity, because it was served in a huge, flat plate instead of a bowl.
“Of course,” I nodded in a tone I imagine Confucius would have used when he uttered one of his many phrases such as “Those who know the truth are not equal to those who love it.”
Elizabeth and I had had quite a battle over the pricing of WIT Australia. I insisted there had to be an 8 in there, and she said it was difficult to do so because of the GST which resulted in the pricing being rather awkward, rather than rounded, the way event organisers seem to like it.
But in the end, like good partners, we compromised and we ended up with an East-West price of A$584.
Okay, I don’t know if it was the 8 that saved us but despite all the drama about the ash cloud, our event went off rather well.
Yes, we lost two speakers – Robbie Cooke of Wotif and Darren Wright of AirAsia X who were caught out by the flight cancellations – and four delegate no-shows but, overall, we got good reviews for the first WIT Australia.
Call me superstitious or whatever, I think we also had extra protection because I titled one of the sessions “881” after the movie of the same name.
It is one of my favourite Singapore movie/musical about “getai” (street theatre) which is performed to appease the Hungry (and sometimes angry) Ghosts that roam our earth during said festival every year.
In this session, I has asked Kei Shibata of travel.jp and Fritz Demopolous of Qunar to come up with 8 Insights, 8 Ideas and 1 Thing You Must Do Tomorrow for their presentations on Japan and China respectively.
And the two delivered beautifully, sharing generously their hands-on experience of their home markets.
In another session, “Dream of the Hotel Chamber” (after the classic novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber”, I had asked Worldhotels’ Roland Jegge and Accor’s Olaf Belgraver to wear a dash of red – that being the colour of good fortune and prosperity in Chinese.
The two not only wore red ties but brought me red flowers. How lucky can a girl get?
Perhaps Sandra Chipchase, CEO of the Melbourne Convention & Visitors Bureau, also brought us luck. She made it through the ash cloud for her presentation, and gave away lots of fortune cookies to everyone.
Unfortunately, the hotel investment conference which I had been scheduled to moderate a session at on June 23-24 was postponed with the organisers sending an urgent notice out on Tuesday.
It said it made the decision to defer because a third of the delegates were coming in from interstate and international. Actually a few were at WIT Australia already and so they were disappointed because they had timed their trip accordingly.
Anyway, we shrugged it off. There are worse places to be stranded in than Sydney and in the end, really only domestic flights were disrupted for half a day or so and international flights weren’t affected. As with most things, it seemed worse in the media than it really was for us on the ground. In fact, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, cool, sunny, blue skies with beautiful sunrises everyday ...
And so what did we do? We played golf, we ran along the magnificent harbour, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, we ate great seafood, we drank lots of wine, we watched musicals – “Hairspray” was on – and we went bar-hopping. Okay, some of us had meals in Chinatown, couldn’t stay away from the rice and noodles.
And oh yes, between us, we bought quite a few iPad 2s and lots of bottles of wines.
You see, we are the new travellers from Asia. Most of us bought our tickets online. Some of us flew low cost, some economy, some business. Some stayed in budget accommodation, some higher end. But like all free-and-easy travellers, when we are in destination, we love to consume and we want to experience new things.
Even if we still believe in silly little things like, well, that number 8.