Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with YTL Hotels’ Luke Hurford

We caught up with YTL Hotels’ senior vice president of strategy to find out how he’s been faring during the pandemic. However, it was hard to hear him through the layer of snow he keeps on his face.

What are you reading?

Business trips used to be great for reading books on flights, in airports and jet-lagged in hotels. At home, I get The New York Times delivered daily and it feels somehow more important than ever to support good journalism and follow events as they unfold today.

I’ve just started Deviate by Beau Lotto. I enjoy learning about neuroscience, perhaps helpful after reading the NYT and trying to comprehend everything else I read.

What are you watching?

Don’t have a TV, as one of my kids kicked a ball through the TV screen on the second day of lockdown in Malaysia and we found life was more peaceful without the kids arguing over the TV remote, so now I’m watching the kids argue over who broke the TV.

What are you listening to?

Thankfully, my kids like similar music, so we go between Chris Stapleton and Anderson Paak. Country to hip-hop somehow works in our house, and they generally find new artists they like on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts during evening iPad time.

What are you cooking?

Spinach and mushroom omelettes for the kids’ breakfasts with a banana and berry shake.

My wife makes incredibly healthy and delicious meals for the kids’ lunches and dinners, with a lot of Japanese-style cooking, so we all eat well.

I would highly recommend everyone learn to cook Hokkaido chan-chan yaki if you like salmon and miso.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

I was training for Cultra, an ultra-trail-run in Cameron Highlands where our hotel, Cameron Highlands Resort, partners with the event organisers. But, when the event couldn’t go ahead, I stopped training. Now, I slowly jog around KLCC park in front of the Petronas Twin Towers, or go for a short run from our house a couple of times a week, but it’s more for the joy of being outside in the sun for my mental health over actual fitness goals.

Mental health can be positively impacted in many ways, so I swim and run with the kids outdoors and go to activity centres like trampoline parks that are fun for all of us. We maintain a healthy diet and make time to do simple tasks like keeping a clean and organised house, workspace and work environment, and always surround ourselves with positive people, maintaining perspective and empathy. As a family, we try and keep healthy sleep patterns, and all these contribute to us being in a good place mentally.

Whats something positive youve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

Given the circumstances, it really is hard to see much of a silver lining with so many people touched by this pandemic directly, with health issues and massive job losses and financial stress.

However, seeing the significant reduction of pollution in some regions of the world perhaps offers a glimpse of how we can all change and use this as an opportunity to create a better future.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

I enjoy teaching. My middle kid is autistic and all external therapy sessions stopped for several weeks when Malaysia was in full lockdown. So, we set up a learning room in our house and I did full-time learning with him. His older sister had her desk in the room doing her schoolwork to post online to her teacher and class.

Adhering to a process and adjusting how I would teach each day and seeing the constant improvements has been incredibly worthwhile and satisfying. My moments of Zen come each night watching the short videos I make showing his progress and what we were learning and then editing to share with his therapists. I’ve started sharing the videos online as a resource for anyone with ASD kids or interested to learn more.

Whats your advice for others in the industry on coping with the crisis?

From a company perspective, we all need to preserve cash to have the ability to stay in business and survive this crisis; doing this in tandem with taking care of employees, partners and stakeholders is difficult but possible with clear and honest communication.

From an individual perspective, we need to understand our industry is going through hard times, hope for and work towards better days and plan something to look forward to.

Where is your favourite domestic (AU) travel destination?

The Murray River is just stunning. Twenty years ago, two friends and I kayaked from Albury-Wodonga to the Coorong in South Australia over three months. Every stretch of the river has a unique character and we got into some remarkable parts of the country just paddling our kayaks.

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

Last year playing on the best beach in Thailand at The Surin Phuket with the kids, all jumping in the waves and kids having fun in the sun.

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

After visiting family, I do want to get back to Hokkaido where my wife is from. I worked there for 10 years in the ski industry and YTL Hotels owns Niseko Village, where I was based for several years. Be it winter with waist-deep powder or summer with the cycling, trail running and clean spring water by the roadside, the lifestyle and friendships there are special.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Aviation

New flight tracking tech sheds fresh light on MH370 mystery

New research suggests the pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 made a series of turns to escape detection before […]

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Tourist rescued from shattered glass suspension bridge in China

The tourist narrowly escaped death after becoming trapped on a 100-meter high glass suspension bridge in gale-force winds. 

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

The Star lobs merger offer at rival Crown to create $12bn tourism and entertainment giant

by Huntley Mitchell

The Star faces some competition, however, from a private equity firm that wants to take over Crown (which, FYI, has also just hired a new CEO).

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Borders to stay shut until at least 2022, says Treasurer

Meanwhile, ScoMo reckons Australians don’t have the “appetite” for international travel. What an absolute load of bollocks.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

New Zealand welcomes back travellers from NSW following 48-hour pause

After being left in limbo for two days, NSW travellers have been given the green light from New Zealand to grab their suitcase and head to the airport.

Share

CommentComments

Events

Registrations open for Travel DAZE 2021!

Get excited, people! Travel DAZE is back for another year to help foster the reboot of travel and tourism.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Road trip guide: The Golden Quest Discovery Trail

by Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

Put together a dream road trip through WA’s goldfields and immerse your clients in 125 years of gold rush history along this rugged and beautiful trail.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Road trip guide: The Ardi Cultural Drive

by Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

The people of the Dampier Peninsula welcome visitors to see their ancient land and culture, proving there is more to the Kimberleys’ coastal wilderness than striking white sand, turquoise sea and pindan cliffs.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Road trip guide: The Gibb River Road

by Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

Western Australia is home to epic four-wheel-drive adventures through one of the last true wilderness areas on earth – The Gibb River Road.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Road trip guide: Cruise the Coral Coast Highway

by Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

The Coral Coast Highway stretches 1,250km from Perth to Exmouth and is recognised as one of Australia’s greatest scenic drives.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Road trip guide: The South West Edge

by Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

Weaving between wine regions, towering forests and along marine life-rich coast, The South West Edge is an epic road trip around, you guessed it, the south-western edge of WA.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Former Etihad boss detained for trying to skip hotel quarantine using Aussie passport

The millionaire was reported to UK authorities after he was heard bragging about switching passports to avoid a 10-day quarantine stint.

Share

CommentComments