Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with Hilton’s Paul Hutton

This week, Travel Weekly caught up with Hilton’s recently appointed boss for Australasia, Paul Hutton, to find out how he’s been faring since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

What are you reading?

I am a vociferous reader and am currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, as well as dipping into 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.

What are you watching?

I enjoyed Fauda on Netflix and am always on the lookout for good WW1 and WW2 documentaries.

What are you listening to?

The radio. I enjoy anything modern, besides house or rap music!

What are you cooking?

My family are away at the moment, so I am enjoying lots of Thai, Lebanese and Indian food delivered to my door.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

Physically, I run regularly and walk the dog every day. On work calls when I’ll be doing more listening than talking, I take the opportunity to stretch.

Mentally, I love to do something absorbing like tinkering with cars or some gardening. I try to build gardening into my daily routine – even just half an hour – for some fresh air and a bit of escapism.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

I have noticed a number of positive trends. Firstly, how neighbours have been connecting more with one another – talking over the fence or stopping for a chat whilst walking the dog – it is as I remember it in the 70s.

Secondly, it has become easier to talk about things openly with your friends, family or colleagues when things aren’t okay, and that is a great thing.

Thirdly, I have experienced the wonderful effort made by many people to connect with each other. I sincerely hope all of these trends remain into the future.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

I have always been a people person and, since the pandemic began, I have learnt how to better use social technology to stay connected. I use different mediums for different reasons – WhatsApp or FaceTime for informal, personal conversations and Microsoft Teams or Webex for work. Video calls have been a revelation and there is an enormous amount you can achieve connecting with someone on a 15-minute video chat.

What’s your advice for others in the industry on coping with the crisis?

Be proactive in maintaining personal connections so that your stakeholders know they are valued and feel cared for. I dare say businesses that are thriving have deeper connections with their stakeholders – clients, colleagues, investors – than before. It’s also just being a good human.

Where is your favourite domestic travel destination?

Tasmania – Freycinet, Cradle Mountain.

What is the one international travel memory keeping you going through this time?

A wonderful driving holiday I took with family a few years ago in France. The freedom of the open road, wonderful history, visiting local food markets, eating fabulous food.

Where do you want to travel to once international travel restrictions ease up?

Wales to see extended family. Plus, anywhere my teenage daughters want to go so they will come on a holiday with mum and dad!


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